Six Nations 2014: I learnt much from Irish legends, says Owen Farrell

 

The last time Owen Farrell found himself at close quarters with Jonny Sexton and Brian O’Driscoll, kingpin figures in the Ireland midfield and two of the dominant personalities in modern-day European rugby, he was on the far side of the world in Australia. This weekend, there will be a reunion on the young outside-half’s home soil at Twickenham. Not a friendly reunion, perhaps – there is too much riding on the encounter for that – but certainly a fascinating one in light of last summer’s shared experience down there in Wallaby country.

Touring with the British & Irish Lions was an eye-opener for the England player, who understudied Sexton through the Test series and saw at first hand how the great centre O’Driscoll reacted to the events of a dramatic final week. It was a hothouse, a crammer and a finishing school rolled into one. Farrell returned to these shores with a far greater awareness of rugby reality at the very highest level.

“Sexton is a fantastic player,” he said as he began preparations for Ireland’s visit to London on Saturday. “We spent a lot of time together, I enjoyed being around him and I think we clicked. I had massive respect for him before the tour and after getting to know him as a bloke I have more respect now.” Did he find Sexton as intense as his reputation suggested? “Yeah. He demands stuff from people; demands that they know their jobs and get it right.  ”

If operating cheek by jowl with Sexton was instructive, the opportunity to sit ringside at the O’Driscoll show was too good to miss. “There are always reasons why players like O’Driscoll stay at the top for so long,” Farrell said. “A lot has to do with preparation. It’s not just the fact that they chat on the field and make sure everything goes right in training. It’s watching the video afterwards; it’s dragging someone else along and making sure he understands why things are happening.”

And when the Dubliner was dumped ahead of the final Test in Sydney – when his career-long dream of being on the field when the Lions won a series finally fizzled out – how did Farrell find the great man then? “He could have gone into a sulk, as others may have done,” he replied. “He didn’t. The team was first for him. No matter how he was feeling, he made sure he didn’t affect anyone else – made sure he still added to the group. A massive thing, that. For me, it was the thing that really struck home.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
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

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project