England head coach Stuart Lancaster has angrily rejected the suggestion that Andy Farrell pushed for his son Owen to be picked as “absolutely incorrect”.
Farrell, the team’s backs coach, faced questions on Monday over the role he played in Owen Farrell’s return to the starting XV during the World Cup.
George Ford had been first choice fly-half for the past year only to be demoted to the bench for the pivotal match against Wales, which England lost 28-25, with Farrell starting in his place.
Farrell remained as playmaker in chief for the defeat to Australia that sealed the hosts’ World Cup exit, but Lancaster insists his selection was not unduly influenced by his father.
“To say there’s a bias in selection is absolutely incorrect and completely unfair on the integrity of Andy Farrell, who I hold in the highest regard,” said Lancaster.
“To suggest he would want to promote his son over anyone else is completely untrue and unfair.
“I’ve had feedback from players who have worked with Andy outside of England who are British and Irish Lions and they found him to be an outstanding coach, person and leader. Andy has an unbelievable future in the game for many years to come.”
Lancaster responded to the claim that Farrell is the dominant voice in selection and decides the gameplan by insisting the final call has been his throughout his three-and-a-half-year reign.
“The ultimate decision on selection always rests with me. There’s a debate, but irrespective of what the other coaches think I make the final decision,” Lancaster said.
“To suggest that Andy has an undue influence on selection is just wrong. He has an equal voice alongside the others. No more or less.
“I’m the head coach and have overall say on the shape and the way we try to play the game.
“Clearly as I have a big job in managing the England team, I do rely on the other coaches, but we all contribute in each other’s areas.
“The overall philosophy is mine but we all have equal input. That’s the way it’s always been and I think over the last few years we’ve been pretty successful in the evolution of our attack.”
Press Association Sport understands there was disquiet over Sam Burgess’ rapid elevation into the World Cup squad and matchday 23, but Lancaster insists he has never been aware of any ill-feeling.
Luther Burrell, an ever-present over the last two years, lost out to Burgess on the day the squad was announced in January.
“I’ve never had that feedback from any player at all. No one ever said anything to me about it,” Lancaster said.
“There were a lot of very close decisions at the end. The boys understand there are tough decisions to make when you’re an international coach and accept it’s part of the job.
“We’re a very tight group of 31 players but equally I’m very mindful that a lot of players missed out who will come back into the equation. I’m sure Luther will be in that mix.”