England tour of New Zealand: Owen Farrell urges focus, not desperation

As England seek a series-saving win against the All Blacks on Saturday, their outside-half calls for cool rather than hot heads

auckland

England have endured so many desperate moments on New Zealand soil since their first visit here a little over half a century ago – their ability to finish on the wrong side of the police as well as the scoreboard has been quite something – it is not exactly surprising that the current tourists are keen to remove the D-word from their vocabulary.

But these players, operating far closer to All Black standard than any England side since the World Cup winners of 2003, are talking a different language from many of their predecessors. The danger they face is caring too much rather than not enough.

Asked whether he and his colleagues would draw deep from the well of "emotional desperation" in their effort to save this series by winning in Dunedin on Saturday, the outside-half Owen Farrell rejected the idea out of hand.

"I don't think 'desperate' is the right word," said the young Saracens playmaker, who has just missed out on two major trophies as well as a cap in the Auckland Test England lost last weekend, yet seemed remarkably sanguine about life. "If you're desperate, you do things that you wouldn't normally do. This situation demands that we keep doing what we do, but do it better.

"That means preparing well by leaving no stone unturned – of taking the learning out of the Auckland match and getting our detail right. And it means going into this Test with clear heads. Yes, we put a lot of emotion into our rugby and we'll be right up there come game time. But focus is the main thing. We have to prepare ourselves for problems we think might present themselves, while being aware that something else might happen."

Despite a strikingly accomplished performance from the Leicester-bound midfielder Freddie Burns at Eden Park – his display bordered on the remarkable, given the torments of his final season with Gloucester – it is assumed that Farrell will start in the pivot position this weekend.

His last act on a rugby field was unfortunate to say the least: having scored what he thought was a perfectly good try in the Premiership final against Northampton 10 days ago, he booted the ball high into the Twickenham heavens in celebration, gave himself a fierce attack of cramp as a consequence and then underwent a spell of treatment that lasted just long enough for the "video ref" to review things from a dozen different angles and disallow the score for a forward pass. Brilliant!

"I definitely won't be doing that again," he said, with a soft smile of purest embarrassment. "It was pretty stupid, especially as I could feel myself cramping up as I ran to the line."

Happily for the tourists' sake, he has put the trauma behind him. "It was tough at first, dealing with the disappointment of going down two weeks on the bounce as we did at Saracens. But you have to move on. It was a good thing for me to get on a plane straight away and switch my head into England mode."

He spent Saturday night watching his fellow countrymen come up marginally short against the world champions, whose late breaking of the English resistance had much to do with an inspirational flash of individuality from Aaron Cruden, the outside-half from Manawatu who is widely expected to face Farrell in the second Test. Cruden's decision to tap a penalty to himself rather than kick for the sticks was the very definition of high-risk, high-reward rugby. Would Farrell have made a similar call, under the circumstances?

"I would have had to make sure someone was with me," he replied. "It worked out all right for the All Blacks because of the pressure it created, but unless it's clear-cut that you're going to score a try, you'd take the three points every time. There again, I've seen Cruden do it quite a bit in Super XV this year: he looks as though he's going to kick a penalty to touch and then throws the ball wide. You can't switch off. If you do, he'll take your space."

Farrell's contribution to England since making his debut at the start of Stuart Lancaster's stewardship two and a half years ago has been significant indeed, not just in terms of his goal-kicking and defensive work, which have been close to Wilkinsonesque, but in his embodiment of the warrior spirit. It may just be that he is the toughest competitor in the squad.

But the challengers to his position are beginning to cluster around him. George Ford of Bath is clearly of interest to Lancaster, and Burns is now very much back in the game. "I thought Freddie was brilliant," Farrell said.

It was a generous assessment but, as the player pointed out, that is the "culture" in the squad. "It's not about the individual, it's about what's best for the team."

Marler: We can go toe to toe with '15 blokes'

It sometimes takes a front-row forward to tell it how it is, so Joe Marler's thoughts on the delicate balance of this three-Test series with the world champions were eagerly awaited. "We went into last weekend's game having spent the build-up trying to rid ourselves of the All Black myth, the aura of invincibility," said the loose-head specialist from Harlequins. "We respect them, but when you break it down and look at them as individuals, they are 15 blokes on a field, trying to do the same thing as us.

"I've always seen them year on year as the best team in the world, with the best players in the world from one to 15. And yes, they have a lot of people who are world class. But we think we can go toe to toe with them. It's just a matter of taking that extra step."

One of England's stand-out performers at Eden Park and far and away the senior prop in this party, Marler was none too impressed with local accusations of negative, slow-tempo rugby from the tourists. "I didn't see the All Black forwards running to any of the scrums or line-outs," he said, sardonically. "It's not a tactic of ours to slow down the game. If it was slow, it was because there were a lot of dropped balls and a lot of set pieces. This stuff is nonsense."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum