Farrell factor offers threat to favourites

Wales arrive at red-rose HQ in great shape but are still wary of hosts' father-and-son combination

Wales travel to Twickenham as favourites about as often as they prevail there, which is once in a blue moon.

Half a dozen of their current side, from Leigh Halfpenny and George North in the backs to Toby Faletau and the brilliant Sam Warburton up front, have witnessed only one such victory in their lifetimes – the bizarre comeback win against an injury-ridden and fast-imploding England four years ago – and when the visitors arrived in London for today's Six Nations set-to with their nearest and dearest, there was just a hint of the old inferiority complex about them.

"This," acknowledged Mike Phillips, the reigning Lions scrum-half and one of the form players in the Wales side, "is going to be a proper Test match. England have won twice in the tournament, just like us, but people aren't giving them credit. They'll be out to prove those people wrong. It will be a pressure-cooker environment and we'll struggle if we don't get the basics right. We'll have our hands full."

England are certainly thinking along those lines, despite the widespread assumption west of the River Severn that they are there for the taking. Andy Farrell, the red-rose assistant coach and father of the man most likely to win the game for the home side, was particularly amused by the comments of Jonathan Davies, the folk-hero outside-half who was at the heart of the Welsh victory in 1988 and has recently been heard predicting, from the safety of the broadcasting booth, that his countrymen will "smash" their opponents this afternoon. "I've sent a text thanking him for that," Farrell said. "Brilliant news."

The late inclusion of the long-serving Stephen Jones among the Wales replacements means the visitors have more caps on the bench than England have in their starting line-up. Will this statistic impact on events at the old cabbage patch? Probably not. Far more relevant is the fact that England's decision-making axis at No 8, scrum-half and stand-off is brand new and wholly untested. Ben Morgan is making his first international start in the middle of the back row, as is Lee Dickson at the base of the pack. As for Farrell's son Owen, switched from centre to outside-half following the freak injury to Charlie Hodgson ... this is a major test of temperament, and no mistake.

Farrell Jnr will have to kick his goals if England are to beat the odds today, for the chances of his countrymen outperforming their opponents on the try-scoring front are remote. In his two international outings to date – the first in Edinburgh, the second in Rome – he proved equal to the task, but hitting the spot from all angles and distances is easier when the principal game-management duties are being performed by someone else. Today, the burden resting on the 20-year-old midfielder will be at its heaviest.

Rhys Priestland, his opposite number, will not carry quite the same weight of responsibility, thanks to the reassuring presence of another expert marksman in the full-back Leigh Halfpenny. England have a second goal-kicker of their own in Toby Flood, but the World Cup player will not be on the field from the start and may not feature until the final quarter, if at all. Barring injuries, it will be Farrell or nothing for the majority of the contest.

"I'm quite comfortable with that," said Farrell Snr, who chipped over a few goals himself during his long career as a rugby league international. "I sometimes think it's better not to have a second kicker on the field, with all the chopping and changing. If you're a kicker, you want to be in charge. You don't want to be known as a short-range specialist, or someone who kicks the long ones but not the others. I'm perfectly happy going in with one kicker on the field."

Since the old Five Nations was expanded to include Italy a dozen years back, England have lorded it over Wales at Twickenham to a startling extent. Only once have they fallen short of the 30-point mark and that was in 2008, when Brian Ashton's side played like a team of world-beaters in the first half and a bunch of carpet-beaters in the second. Indeed, the average scoreline since the change of championship format in 2000 is 37-16 in favour of the reigning Six Nations champions.

No one in his right mind would invest heavily on that gap being maintained today, but England believe they can make Wales sweat at the line-out and are relishing the prospect of a full-on firefight in the loose. The visitors are also wary of the Farrell factor: the Andy Farrell factor, that is.

Shaun Edwards, the Wales defence coach who played many a game of rugby league alongside his old Wigan clubmate, illustrated this in characteristically entertaining style yesterday. "Andy came into the Wigan team when he was 17 and they put him in a room with Dean Bell, then our captain, to ease his nerves," Edwards recalled. "Come the morning of the match, Dean was being sick in the toilet and Andy was saying to him: 'Don't worry, we'll win this game, no problem'."

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering