England captain Owen Farrell will deliver his final team talk on the eve of Saturday’s World Cup final against South Africa to a captivated audience encouraged to speak their minds.
Jamie George, Farrell’s Saracens and Lions team-mate, has set the scene for the last gathering from which coaches are excluded, where Farrell will address the squad before they do battle with the Springboks in Yokohama.
“I just can’t wait for Friday. That is Owen’s meeting. Friday night we have a meeting and we like to call it a captain meeting, a team meeting,” George said.
“There are no coaches in the room. He just asks us how we are feeling and if anyone has anything to say.
“Often people will get something off their chest if they are thinking about the game and then he says his bit and without fail you could hear a pin drop.
“Everyone is hanging on every word he says. It is very inspirational without tearing the roof down because that is probably not what is needed.
“But he has a very good feel of what the team needs and what messages he needs to deliver.
It lasts however long it lasts. There have been short meetings, there have been meetings that have lasted half an hour.
“It varies pretty much on how much the other lads want to speak. Often they don’t. Mako Vunipola will say his piece, Maro Itoje often has a little bit, Courtney Lawes speaks a little bit.
“I think in Owen’s mind it’s quite nice to hear from people who haven’t been speaking, who haven’t got a huge leadership role in the team. He often draws on their feelings and experiences, and sees how they’re feeling.
“There’s always going to be an element of tactical talk, but I’d say it’s 90% per cent emotion.
“But it’s not shouting and screaming — you are able to get your head down to sleep after it! He gets that balance quite nice and it sets the tone then for the build-up.
"The build-up starts from the minute you wake up on the Saturday — the image you give off to the people around you, even in the way you walk to breakfast.
“You are always constantly giving off a message to other people, about what your mindset is and how you are feeling.”
Farrell succeeded Dylan Hartley on a permanent basis before the 2018 summer tour to South Africa, and has been at the helm ever since, adding leadership to his already considerable list of duties that include goal-kicking and playmaker.
“Owen’s development has been brilliant. He has been a leader since I have known him at 14,” George said.
“Back then, there was probably a lot more shouting because of frustration more than anything but now I think he has just developed a huge amount. As a leader, I can’t speak highly enough of him. He is the sort of person you want to follow.
“He leads from the front, but is also a person you can trust because you know first of all that he is probably the best at it in terms of his rugby ability but also the amount of tape that he watches.
“You know for a fact that the messages that he is giving you, he has been thinking over and over again. He is very good at delivering a theme and messages that build up nicely throughout the week.
“On the field he is still vocal. In the changing room, I don’t think he’s ever been shouty. He is very calm — he has got a lot calmer, I’d say.
“He talks a lot about being in control of your emotions. That is something he has learnt a lot through his younger years but he is calm, delivers messages.
“There are times when we haven’t been quite on it in the warm-up, but it’s never a shouty message. You see it in his eyes, it’s a look — like, if he asks for more, we’re going to give him more, that’s the way that he is.”
George regards England’s dramatic triumph in the Cricket World Cup final as an example of the precision that will be needed to dispatch South Africa on Saturday.
The nation claimed its first 50-over trophy by defeating New Zealand on boundaries in July — but only after the completion of an extraordinary ‘super over’ in which pinpoint fielding on the last ball staved off defeat.
George is friends with cricketers Jason Roy and Sam Billings, and insists Eddie Jones’ men must display the same perfect execution of skills at the critical moment if they are to be the second England team crowned world champions this year.
“Fine margins isn’t it? A big thing that I have thought about is your ability to perform your skill under the highest pressure,” the British and Irish Lions hooker said.
If you think back to that super over and the last run out — Jason Roy’s throw — he had to pick the ball up first, the ball is coming to him at speed, he’s done it a thousand times before, but doing it under that pressure, knowing that he needs to get it there in that moment… Jos Buttler taking the stumps.
“Things like that. Doing your job under pressure. I read a bit with Jason Roy saying all he could think about was getting the ball into his hands. He was thinking about the process rather than thinking about the big picture.
“I’ve spoken to Eoin Morgan a few times about the culture and also the mindset of the team going into their final.
“They had been through a bit more of a rollercoaster ride than we have in this tournament but there are certain similarities over the last two seasons or so.”