Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Farrell's calm hides dangerous passion

Owen Farrell.
Owen Farrell.

At the top table, Owen Farrell is composed. He looks like a five-eighth with the unruffled disposition of Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter and sounds calm enough.

Away from his workplace, Farrell is a 22-year-old who goes about his business without much extra emotion.

When he crosses the touchline in his rugby kit, he is a different beast. He is still calculating and precise but carries a fuse with a pilot light on constant standby.

Any nonsense will spark Farrell into action.

That low flashpoint will be a magnet for the All Blacks in Dunedin, where Farrell is expected to resume at first five-eighth for England in the crucial second test.


If that decision is confirmed tomorrow among several changes when coach Stuart Lancaster reveals his side, Farrell and the new crew will be asked to do even better than their colleagues did at Eden Park.

"I don't know about [feeling] guilty, I think they'll want to do it justice," he said about the challenge for the replacement players.

"Obviously we don't know what is happening yet but every time anybody pulls that shirt on you want to do yourself justice and you do that by performing."

Farrell arrived here with 22 caps since he first dipped his toes into test rugby for England in 2012.

There was some doubt if the son of league legend Andy Farrell, who is backs coach on this tour, would travel after he damaged his leg in Saracens' extra-time Premiership final loss to Northampton.

He got the travel tick though and is in the frontline talk about those who will make the starting cut for Dunedin. If that occurs he admits he will have to show some game to match the performance of Freddie Burns at Eden Park.

"What he did was brilliant and I think a few people were asking questions of him and he showed everybody what he can do," Farrell said. "The thing about being involved in this camp is the team comes first," he said. "It is not about us as individuals but is about what's best for the team and that means as an individual you have to put your best foot forward all the time and make sure you are pushing each other."

As Farrell sat in the grandstand at Eden Park, the importance of patience boomed back at him. It was about believing in the team disciplines rather than panicking.

Rugby was a game about finding space and there were many ways to achieve that goal which depended on how a game unfolded, he said.

If the backfield was congested then you played more and vice versa.

"It is all about what is the right thing to do." Pressure on him to manage a game was a constant and Farrell felt he was making progress.

All sorts of decisions had to be made throughout any game and he liked to mix his instincts with the programmed moves. "You want to pick out the right one more than the wrong one and make sure you keep going that way and looking at what's in front of you and making decisions on seeing what is happening."

England's self-belief was expanding and they backed themselves against any side while they also had massive respect for the history and results the All Blacks had created.

"We need to focus on getting better and better and making sure we learn from every situation we get put in.

"I think we have been doing that over ... the last two years and we have to make sure that doesn't stop."

- NZ Herald

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