Six Nations 2018: Owen Farrell proves his weight in gold to England's Grand Slam cause after downing Wales

Farrell proved instrumental in both attack and defence in the 12-6 victory over Wales, but he won't be taking credit for it any time soon

Jack de Menezes
Sunday 11 February 2018 21:24
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Owen Farrell refused to accept that he has become a talisman for England - but he's on the right path
Owen Farrell refused to accept that he has become a talisman for England - but he's on the right path

Owen Farrell looked bemused when it was put to him that he is becoming a talismanic figure of English rugby, but there’s no doubt that he is rapidly becoming the most important player in the Eddie Jones’ plan to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

In the week leading up to England's12-6 victory over Wales, Jones hailed Alun Wyn Jones, the Welsh captain and all-time great, as a player who seems to start at an eight out of 10 in every match. It’s fair to say that watching Farrell over the last two years has elicited similar reviews, and after another match-defining display from the Saracens man, Jones was quick to heap praise on him.

“He played really well today,” Jones said. “I was impressed by his leadership, his toughness, his will to win… He was absolutely outstanding. He’s important in our side.”

His consistency since Jones took the reins has been remarkable and a major reason why England have won 24 of their 25 games under the Australian, and Saturday’s performance was the perfect reminder of this. Farrell set up the first try for Jonny May with an inch-perfect kick off turnover ball, sparked the wing’s second with a looping pass to Joe Launchbury who promptly laid the ball on a plate for May to finish, and was exceptional in defence throughout the entire match – none more so than when he turned the ball over when England were under pressure deep in their own 22.

Known for being such a perfectionist – whether it be in training, matches or whatever task is at hand – it’s rare to see Farrell when he’s not analysing or reflecting or preparing, but on Saturday evening even he afforded himself time to enjoy what was a big result in the development of this team.

Full press conference with Eddie Jones following England's win over Wales in Six Nations

“When you've been in an arm wrestle for that long and come out on the right side of the result I think it shows you’re heading in the right direction,” Farrell said. “I think that's what big teams do. They have those games and come out on top in the end. It was a good game to play in....it was proper rugby, properly physical, proper intensity. We're glad to come out on the right side of the result.

“I like them all – except for the boring ones. You take it for what it is. It didn't rain all the way through the game but it was wet. The ball was slippy and we had to do the right things to win the game. I thought we did that. Of course we'll have some things to improve on for the next game against Scotland but we'll make sure we do that.”

Farrell was in the side that lost the 2015 Rugby World Cup pool stage clash to Wales that sparked England’s early exit from the tournament. In the fallout from that tournament, the question of whether the world Cup had come around too early for that crop of players was asked, given the relative inexperience that it had.

The same cannot be said now. The starting line-up for England on Saturday boasted 734 international caps, over 400 more than Wales’ tally of 330 – with more than a third of those coming in Alun Wyn Jones’ 114 caps. In Dan Cole, Courtney Lawes, Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Farrell and Mike Brown, England have six players all over the 50-Test barrier, while captain Dylan Hartley tied Jonny Wilkinson on Saturday as England’s second most-experienced player on 91 caps, 23 behind record-holder Jason Leonard.

Owen Farrell celebrates England's victory over Wales in the Six Nations

“I think our experience is getting better as a team,” Farrell added. “We have been together a while now. We feel like we are going in the right direction. I can't speak for them [Wales] as I'm not in their camp, they have some pretty experienced lads themselves. We are just happy with the way that we dogged it out.

“Not everything goes your way in Test rugby – especially big games like this one. We managed to come out the other side.

“I think big raps have to go to our wingers today. They chased every kick properly. They didn’t hang back for any. They didn’t wait and see what happened on any. They went from the off, they got up in the air, they caused them some problems. I’m not just saying getting up and catching the ball clean, I’m on about going and causing chaos.

“When a team is going backwards and you’re getting up in the air and spoiling ball and you’re the team that’s going forward, it feels good. It’s hard to get back in position if we get that ball back. I thought Anthony [Watson], Brownie [Mike Brown], Jonny [May] and Jack [Nowell] when he came on showed great intent. Hopefully we can kick on from that.”

That Jones decided to remove George Ford with 12 minutes to go and move Farrell inside shows how valuable his leadership is to the side, and while Hartley may be the captain of this side, the value of Farrell is being made perfectly clear.

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