Father-son love but still a Six Nations family 'feud'
CAPE TOWN – England captain Owen Farrell made his Saracens debut when he was just 17 years old. Farrell replaced his father Andy, who was injured.
The two Farrells are of that rare father and son breed who played alongside each other and tomorrow at Twickenham they’ll add another twist to the family dynamic when Owen captains England against an Ireland team coached by dad Andy.
The media talk all week has been about the father versus son showdown and while both play it down, both also acknowledge that there may be divided loyalty among immediate family. They do say that with a smile.
“The hardest part is certainly for (wife and mother) Colleen, yeah, 100 percent,” Farrell senior told the Irish media. “And Owen’s sisters (Elleshia and Grace), and the young fella Gabriel, it’s weird for them. They’ve got unbelievably mixed emotions, I’ve no doubt, because they’re only human, but I suppose how do they try and come to terms with it? I suppose they think that, they hope that, both sides do well. And that’s not going to happen, is it? So, it is a difficult one for them."
Privately, the family may be hoping for a draw, but sharing the spoils is not in the sporting DNA of father and son. They both don’t celebrate second place and there would be no comfort for either man in tomorrow’s Test ending in a stalemate.
Farrell senior has won his first two Six Nations matches in charge of Ireland and a third successive win would make Ireland a favourite to win the tournament. Anything but a win would end England’s championship prospects.
The Farrells have opposed each other four times since Andy left England as the defensive specialist to align with Ireland. The scores are levelled at two-all, but this is the first time dad has fronted son as head coach of Ireland.
“You know what, I am proud of the situation,” said Farrell senior. “I am as far as a father and him as a son, I am proud of how it is handled, because it is one of the utmost respect, but of professionalism, first and foremost.”
If tomorrow's match-up has the Farrell romance about it, there will be nothing romantic about unbeaten France’s visit to Cardiff to play Wales. France, in coach Fabian Galthie’s first campaign in charge, were brilliant for 60 minutes in beating England in Paris and typically erratic in downing Italy the following weekend.
This will be Galthie’s first away trip in the competition and Welsh coach Wayne Pivac will be primed to get Wales back on track after the slump against Ireland in Dublin.
Only a victory will do for Wales while a French win will set up a potential tournament decider against Ireland.
Italy, the punching bag of the tournament, host Scotland in the hope of recording just their 13th overall win in 103 Six Nations matches in the last 20 years. Italy have won just two away from home but Scotland is the one team they have enjoyed success against in Italy, with their last Six Nations win coming against Scotland in 2015.
Frankly, with 22 successive Six Nations defeats, it would need a miracle for Italy to beat Scotland, regardless of how poor Scotland has been in the past 12 months.
Independent on Saturday