Saracens v Harlequins: 'It's a massive privilege to play at Wembley,' says Owen Farrell


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The Independent Online

On Saturday afternoon England’s Owen Farrell will step out onto the Wembley Stadium pitch to play his part in the highest attended club rugby union match in history.

After putting in a string of impressive performances during England’s six nations campaign, where the side were desperately unlucky to lose the tournament to Brian O Driscoll’s Ireland, Farrell returns to club competition this weekend and the stage couldn’t be bigger.

Saracens take on local rivals Harlequins at the home of football and know that a win would seriously help their cause of securing second place. With six games to go both the Wolf Pack and Saturday’s opponents Quins know that they are in the business end of the season and that the match could have a huge impact on where both sides finish when the season reaches its climax.

On Thursday afternoon, Farrell and the rest of the Sarries team trained on the Wembley pitch ahead of this weekend’s Aviva Premiership game against local rivals Quins, a contest that will be played to a crowd of over 80,000 rugby fans and broadcast live on BT Sport. This will be the biggest crowd for a rugby union match held in England and the biggest attendance for a club rugby union match held anywhere in the world. The stage and the stakes couldn’t be higher and BT Sport ambassador Farrell knows this, speaking after the training session and some extra kicking practise on the hallowed turf the England fly-half said he felt privileged to be playing in a stadium like Wembley and in such a big game. Speaking of how he deals with the pressure that comes with the big occasions.

“It’s a massive privilege to play in all the big games and stadiums, but at the same time you put the work in not so you just turn up on the big stages but in every game wherever it is.

“That’s what you have to show and to be involved in these big games and play on big stages like Saturday you have to perform consistently and that’s what you put pressure on yourself to do.

“When you put the practise in and you’ve been training since you were a kid to play in these sort of stadiums, in these sort of events and when you put the work in its natural put pressure on yourself.

“When it’s time to deliver, when you’re on the big stage you have to be confident with what you have been working on. You try and block out the crowd you’ve got a job to focus and a game plan to stick so you have to make sure you concentrate on that” he said.

Farrell is no stranger to the big occasion or leaps into the unknown, having played at Wembley already, when Sarries were desperately unlucky to be defeated by Toulouse in November along with the number of times he has lined-up for England at Twickenham.  

At half-time on Saturday he will be watching on as Olympic long jump gold medallist Greg Rutherford attempts to win £1 million for Sport Relief when he attempts the ‘catch a million challenge’, where he will try to catch and hold onto three high rugby balls.

Prior to the challenge Rutherford is not allowed to practise or take any advice from any of the Saracens players but Farrell believes the Olympians task is achievable.

“You just tuck one ball under each arm and then catch the other one in between, we mess about with the machine at the club and there are lot of lads that have done the challenge.

“The stadium is going to be as windy so he just has to make sure you block everything out and watches the ball until the second it is in his hands. It is easy enough you just have to keep your eye on the ball” he said.

Rutherford on the other hand knows that he is leaping into the unknown and hopes that the crowd on Saturday will get behind him as he attempts to raise a lot of money for Sport Relief.

“I have to expect to get all three, or else I’m setting myself up for failure already. I guess that’s my competitive side, the thing is I have nothing to base it on if I went into a competition I’d look at who I’m up against, what are my chances with the people who I am competing against and I could give you an idea but in this situation I have no idea I have never done anything like this before.

“With it being for charity I’m hoping everyone will want me to do well, but its down to me to do my best and complete the task.”

Greg Rutherford takes on the Catch-a-Million challenge for Sport Relief at half time during Saracens v Harlequins at Wembley on March 22nd. The match kicks off at 3pm and is exclusively live on BT Sport 1.