Six Nations: England No 10 Owen Farrell is in a league of his own

England's new No 10 has shown he is learning fast as he heads to Dublin this weekend for a Lions showdown with Ireland's Jonathan Sexton

Calcutta Cup celebrations and sponsor engagements behind them, the England players reconvened yesterday to plot a route past the rampant Irish in Dublin. Ireland's sacking of Wales in the Millennium Stadium and the fall of France in Rome has intensified the atmosphere around a fixture that needs little amplification. At the heart of the English resurgence stands Owen Farrell who, a year on from his international debut, is emerging as the fly-half of coach Stuart Lancaster's dreams.

Farrell combines the minimalism and accuracy of Jonny Wilkinson without any of the introspection that acted like a brake on the latter's creative impulses. A youth spent unconsciously absorbing the rituals and demands of being a great rugby player that attached to his father, Andy, have left Farrell at ease in the spotlight. He cares not a fig about what we think about him. Only the opinions of significant others are considered, which reinforces the iron conviction he has about his own game.

"I don't pay much attention to what is written about me. I try to focus on the opinions that matter most to me. You want the reliable ones. Dad does not have much input when we are in camp. I'm just the same as everybody else in that situation. I get to go over stuff with him at home because he is always there. There is quite a bit of rugby talk. We both enjoy it. It is what we both do every day so there is not much else we talk about. Sometimes my mum gets a bit fed up, but she is used to it now."

There is something endearing about the retention of his Lancastrian dialect, softened only by the inclusion of the definite article, an addition for which he cops plenty of stick in Wigan. "My friends [in the North] take the mickey over my accent. When I moved south at first you find yourself trying to pronounce things properly without really knowing why. But I'm still very much a Wiganer, and at home we've all got Wigan accents."

Until the family moved south when Farrell was 14, young Owen was destined for the 13-man code. Union owes a debt of gratitude for his league education and the instinct to move the ball quickly inculcated in his formative rugby years at Wigan St Pats. "My uncle still plays for Wigan. I watch every game on TV and try to get back and see them whenever I get the chance. I enjoy rugby league. It is engrained in me since birth. I played it till I was 14. There are a lot of transferable skills but they are in many ways two different games."

This is not the time to dive into that old parlour game. It is sufficient to recognise the remarkable progress Farrell has made in Lancaster's first year in charge. There were 18 points from his boot against Scotland and a pass to Geoff Parling that had the tape measures out at Twickenham. Sunday's encounter thrusts him into combat against the favourite for the Lions' No 10 shirt, Jonathan Sexton, an obvious talking point for rugby's chattering classes, but for him nothing more than the next stop on the line.

"From a personal point of view I try to prepare as best I can for what's coming at the weekend. You don't want to be creating things or thinking too much about things you can't control. Different teams present different threats. You have to prepare for each game as it comes. We will focus on ourselves as a team against Ireland. You obviously have to look at them and see what their threats are but you want to put your game on the field. That is what we will be looking to do. I'm looking forward to my debut in Dublin. I think it is going to be exciting."

It is Farrell's capacity to simplify the challenge, to break it down into easily digestible chunks that, at 21, is so impressive. Credit is also due to Lancaster for the collegiate atmosphere he has fostered in his 12 months at the helm. "Everything was being put in place last year, the foundations and culture. That happened quickly. We had a good Six Nations, but meeting up in Leeds again last week it really feels like we hit the ground running. Everybody knew their jobs inside out and we can all focus on the details.

"I don't know that I feel more established now. Everybody was made to feel equal last year. That helped the team grow so quickly. No one felt like they didn't have a voice, or couldn't speak up. That is a credit to Stuart and the coaches. Everybody felt comfortable in that environment. I think you learn from every match. Game management is massive. That is something you pick up as you go along, but you do learn a lot, particularly from the big games."

Owen Farrell is representing the England team for Marriott Hotels & Resorts, official partner of the RFU. Marriott Hotels & Resorts is giving away a two-night break in Europe every time England score a try in the RBS 6 Nations. Go to Facebook.com/MarriottHotelsUK for more

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
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

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick