Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Farrell full of belief in England's readiness

Andy Farrell says belief comes with hard work and preparation and that's what England are working on. Photo / Getty Images
Andy Farrell says belief comes with hard work and preparation and that's what England are working on. Photo / Getty Images

If some of the rhetoric from backs coach Andy Farrell seeps into the England psyche and they play with his authority, then tonight's test will pack some wallop.

Farrell was in bullish voice on the eve of the opening test at Eden Park, speaking with the confidence of a man who played at the highest level in league and rugby for England.

Since his extensive playing days petered out five years ago, the 39-year-old has turned his gaze to coaching where his practical nature dovetails with coach Stuart Lancaster and others on the staff.

You sense Farrell could still stare down any member in the squad and cope well in a skills challenge while his hard edge would be unrivalled.

On top of the work ethic England preaches, they want to be more ruthless about tactics and decisions which ultimately count for so much in international rugby.

This visit to New Zealand was a brilliant time to assess England's progress. "People who don't give us a chance would be the people who don't really know our journey that we have been on so far," said Farrell.

"And the people who do give us a chance and have said polite things about us, understand that for the last two years we have been getting better and we have been getting better fairly rapidly."

England had been involved in many big matches and responded well to those challenges.

This test was near the apex of those contests and Farrell and his crew wanted to see even more progress from England.

Certainly not incompetence, which ruled premier halfback Danny Care out of this test when he aggravated a shoulder injury he first suffered in the premiership. At training on Monday, Care attempted a grubber kick but had an air-shot, stubbed his foot, fell over and further damaged his shoulder.

Those who believe this tour will be calamitous will point to that incident as evidence of the trouble ahead.

Farrell said Care would be fit for the second test and his absence was not a setback for morale because selections had been interchangeable during the last fortnight's training.

"Belief comes with hard work and preparation and that's what we have always been about, getting our plan together," said Farrell.

"Everyone knowing their jobs inside out and the work off the field, preparation not just about ourselves but the opposition has been fantastic." England needed to play the game and not be daunted by the occasion. They understood the part rugby played in New Zealand's psyche and respected the All Blacks and the difficulties of beating them at home.

Like tonight's rivals they had travelled and won in Paris and Dublin, playing away was new but not daunting with the implication victory in Auckland, Dunedin or Hamilton was next on the agenda.

New places did not deter them, said Farrell, they did not shirk the challenge. England needed to improve their rugby while the fighting spirit had always been there.

"The rugby is getting better it is not where we want to be ... which is the best."

- NZ Herald

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