March 18, 2017. Ireland v England. Farrell v Farrell. Read all about it...
Or, perhaps not.
The Six Nations meeting of Andy Farrell, Ireland defence coach, and Owen Farrell, Andy’s son and England out-half, may be a tasty subplot in an eternally engaging rivalry — but not to everyone.
“It is to you,” Farrell deadpanned, when asked if facing his son created an interesting dynamic.
“I’ve got a job to do and one of my jobs will be to stop England’s attack during the Six Nations.
“And you don’t leave any stone unturned, especially when it’s the last game of the Six Nations and hopefully there’s something riding on it.
“How much do you want me to say? Do you think we’re going to spend a week on Owen Farrell, do ya, and what about the rest of the team?”
Why so serious?
“Because it’s only ever been the same for me, because I was a professional rugby player and then he was my son.
“I was watching him play amateur rugby, etc, and then he’s your son.
“But when it becomes professional and he signs professional forms, and I’m coaching him, it’s never been any different.
“It’s never been any different because it’s work. Of course, you still have the father-son relationship out of work, and I would say I never really coached him as a junior at all. I know a lot of fathers do that but I never did at all. I would think that job is harder as far as relationships are concerned because it’s not professional. When you are a professional coach or player you tend to know what you’ve done right or wrong anyway, so there aren’t that many surprises along the way.”
It’s precisely that straight talking, no nonsense, northern bullshit detector that Joe Schmidt wanted when he went shopping for Les Kiss’s replacement after last year’s World Cup. Farrell had been part of the England team that made Ireland’s World Cup look glorious, but his reputation had remained intact more than that of Stuart Lancaster, who has now surprisingly ended up in Leinster.
There was, however, no shortage of speculation surrounding Farrell’s role in the England setup — did he wield too much power as a defence coach? Did he champion the selection of the ill-prepared Sam Burgess, a rugby league convert like Farrell? Did he push for son Owen to play ahead of George Ford?
Speaking in Dublin, Irish rugby’s own Roy Keane, dismissed his public image as one that bears little resemblance to the reality.
You’ve been brought in to challenge Joe, as a strong personality?
“Who said that? You guys (laughs)....?” Farrell said.
Sources in the English media.
“Sources in the English media? There you go!”
Nothing wrong with having strong opinions?
“A strong personality isn’t strong opinions...”
You’re not a ‘yes man’ as such though, so how is working with Joe?
“I disagree with all that, really, because as an assistant coach you’re exactly that, you assist.
“And at the end of the day, whatever ideas we throw together as a coaching group, Joe or whoever is the boss makes the call.
“That’s what the head coach is all about.
“Your job title is to assist and assist as best you can, and have an opinion.
“Otherwise if you don’t give opinions then you’re not doing your job as an assistant.”
Farrell will be Schmidt’s assistant until the end of this season at least, with the Kiwi’s future still a week or two away from clarification.
Farrell is a fully signed-up IRFU employee until after the 2019 World Cup in Japan, but before that he could be set for a return to the Lions, where he impressed 2017 Tour head coach Warren Gatland, during the 2013 series win in Australia.
It’s not yet known if Gatland will approach Farrell once more, but the Englishman appears open to the opportunity.
“You’d have to ask Joe but he hasn’t said anything to the contrary, no,” he said, when asked if he would be available to tour New Zealand.
“I’m sure Joe would be up for any of his coaching staff to get as much experience as they can.
“But look, [if] you start thinking about things like that then you start getting distracted don’t you?
“It’s not a matter of hoping…it’s making sure that you use your time wisely making sure your team does as good as it possibly can therefore you put yourself in the picture. Warren has got a tough really because the British Isles and Ireland have a lot of good coaches on the books.”
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