Six Nations: Owen Farrell - I can deal with being Wales' main target - Profiles - People - The Independent

Six Nations: Owen Farrell - I can deal with being Wales' main target

England's fit-again No 10 tells Tony Roche he knows what is coming in Cardiff but will keep a clear head in the face of 'a real physical challenge'

Owen Farrell returns from injury to face Wales on Saturday knowing there's every possibility he will be on the receiving end of a couple more painful blows in Cardiff. England's precocious fly-half, 21 but oozing the confidence of a player a decade older, is under no illusions what to expect as one of 10 red-rose starters making their Millennium Stadium debuts in the Six Nations Championship decider.

Farrell expects to be targeted, harshly and perfectly legally, by a formidable Welsh back-row, but insisted it comes with the role of playmaker. "I have to concentrate on my job, keep a clear head and be one step ahead in attack," he said. "Every half-back is targeted, it's no different for me. I'll expect to face a real physical challenge, but it won't alter how I do things. I'll just focus on doing my role."

The Saracens stand-off takes that job extremely seriously, so much so that the England head coach, Stuart Lancaster, praised his qualities of leadership, organisation and intense focus as rare indeed in one so young. Farrell returns in place of Toby Flood after recovering from the right thigh quad injury that forced him out of England's Twickenham victory over France.

The crowd winced as one when Farrell uttered a fierce scream after taking a long-range penalty attempt in the second half, and were equally united in anxiety as he was helped off the field. But it was not pain that elicited that bellow, it was a roar of frustration after producing a kick at goal that fell below his high standards.

"People saw me screaming after missing the kick and assumed it was because I was in agony with the injury," Farrell said. "But it wasn't the quad muscle causing agony, it was me being angry with myself for a poor kick."

Farrell missed last weekend's spluttering 18-11 victory over Italy at Twickenham and revealed just how down his squad-mates were afterwards. "It was a very quiet dressing room, that's for sure," he said. "We've come a long way in 14 months under Stuart, and that's to the credit of everyone involved in working with us.

"It's a measure of how far we've come that we reacted almost as if we'd suffered a defeat by Italy rather than winning. It's been very like the build-up week to the All Black game as a result, two day's training, and that sense in the camp that we needed to really focus.

"We came off the back of intense disappointment, losing to South Africa the week before the New Zealand game, and we are in a similar frame of mind this week heading down to Wales."

There's nothing about this squad that suggests anything other than self-belief and a dangerous level of togetherness for opponents. Lancaster encourages confidence as well as pride in the jersey, discipline and setting an example on and off the field as befitting England rugby players.

It's Lancaster's chosen environment, the culture he laid before the players way back when he assembled them at West Park Leeds RFC in January to remind them of the grassroots game they came from.

When asked if a reported Grand Slam bonus of £25,000 per player would be an incentive going into the Wales games, Lancaster's gaze went more steely than usual.

"I drilled it into the squad from the beginning the importance of respecting the fact you are representing your country, playing for your nation's supporters, being proud of your status on and off the field. It has nothing to do with financial gain," Lancaster said.

"We go to Wales relaxed and looking forward to a very special event. It would be very nice to get the Slam, but you don't get it if you don't get the process and performance right. The driver this week has always been what is it going to take to win?"

Which is why Lancaster has elected for the ice-cold mentality of Farrell, a man more likely to scream in self-critical frustration than in pain. "Ask anyone who plays in the Six Nations what they'd like their last game of the season to be," added Farrell, "and they'll tell you it's being in with a chance of a Grand Slam. We were very close last year but lost at home to Wales so we came second and they won the title. Now, everything is on the table, so that makes it extra-special.

"I believe that the more people talk outside the camp, the tighter we get. We work hard for each other, we all push each other to be better in a very positive way. You saw that in Dublin, you saw that in the last 10 minutes last week, when we were defending on our line and under serious pressure.

"The bottom line is that this is a game of rugby in which you must concentrate fully on the plan. Fail in that respect and you'll muck up." Farrell isn't a "muck-up" sort of fly-half.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week