England centre, Owen Farrell, is taking his father’s involvement as part of the opposition in his stride.
It is not often you get to celebrate family ties extending across international sporting boundaries but in the final week of the 2017 Six Nations we finally have the chance, and in one of the most eagerly anticipated contests of the championship.
This Saturday’s meeting at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium has plenty of context every time the two old foes go head to head but this year the fixture has the added intrigue of providing another layer.
Ireland versus England, father versus son, Farrell versus Farrell.
For England star Owen Farrell, going up against his coaching father in Saturday’s Six Nations finale against Ireland may be business as usual; just not so much for his mum.
For Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell, trying to provide the plan to stop his first-born doing what he reared him to do must be the kind of assignment a parent would fear and relish in equal measure.
Except we won’t know how it feels because while the son was presented to the English media this week, the Irish camp were not putting the father anywhere near a microphone.
It is understood, the Irish team management did not want to put the Farrell storyline centre stage, which is a great shame, particularly when it might have deflected attention away from last Friday’s defeat to Wales, which has reduced Ireland to a bit-part role this weekend when it could have been a title-deciding showdown.
Even Farrell senior’s Irish management colleague Greg Feek was bemused by the decision, the scrum coach taking another turn to face the media instead at Carton House yesterday.
He was met with an amusing question from a journalist who prefaced his enquiry with the words: “No offence I was hoping to speak with Andy Farrell, can you give us any insight into this?”
Feek replied: “I questioned Andy myself actually. I said to him ‘you should be doing this’ but obviously with his son playing that is probably why you are not (hearing from Farrell senior).
“I suppose, I don’t want to start that whole thing either, I think someone else should but part of me wants to start it because Andy is a character, he is a great coach and he has been a great fit for us.
"And part of me wants to be very professional but the other part of me wants to enjoy this moment of maybe capitalising on Andy and his involvement with us (providing an inside track on his son), but the only thing I would say is that I respect what he is going through and it is not easy in some ways.
“I have had that discussion with him and I think he is handling it better than, you know, the way to handle it. What gets you through any of this is purely your competitiveness in what you do at the end of the day.
“He will do his job and Owen will do his. I have never met Owen... I can’t really speak for him but I know Andy has been as professional as he has always been this week and nothing changes. He has been delivering great messages and plans and being chirpy over a flat white as well.”
Feek even humorously apologised for not being Andy Farrell but the challenge of stopping inside centre Owen, not just denying the England goal-kicker shots at goal but containing his impressive partnership with fly-half George Ford, is a serious challenge.
His dad will be amongst those trying to stop them, although it is not Farrell senior that junior is worried about.
wen, 26, is taking his father’s involvement as part of the opposition in his stride but his mother Collen is a different matter.
“I wouldn’t say I’m coming up against him — I don’t think he’s playing is he? I don’t think that’ll come into it,” he said after kicking 26 points in Saturday’s 61-21 title- clinching rout of Scotland.
“It’s not like he’s playing the game, there’s only one of us playing in it and he’s obviously got a coaching role. I think the only person it will effect is my mum, not us. She just wants everyone to do well.”
Farrell, as any son would, suggested mum was not entirely unbiased. When asked if she was aiming for a draw on Saturday, Owen replied: “3-0 England I think.”
England put Calcutta Cup rivals Scotland to the sword last Saturday as they equalled New Zealand’s tier-one world record of 18 consecutive Test victories, with Farrell overcoming a dead leg in the build-up to take his place in the No.12 jersey.
As impressive as England were, Farrell echoed all the talk coming out of their camp by underlining the determination of those wearing the red rose that their still a job to finish in Dublin this weekend.
“I just think we did what we did well (against Scotland). We didn’t really change what we did too much, we just did it well. We focused on ourselves.
“I don’t think anyone is happy yet. Obviously, it’s brilliant to win it but we have one game left and that’s our job. It’s our job to focus on it and a big one it is so our heads are firmly fixed on that.”
I wouldn’t say I’m coming up against him – I don’t think he’s playing is he? I don’t think that’ll come into it.
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