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Ireland’s Andy Farrell shuns talk of family duel at Twickenham | Sport


The Farrells practically exude impatience when questions turn to the matter of each other, so Andy Farrell and his son Owen, coach of Ireland and captain of England respectively, had better prepare to have their patience tried over the next fortnight. Ireland travel to Twickenham a week on Sunday in search of the triple crown, following their impressive victory over Wales on Saturday.

“Honestly, I’ve not even thought about it,” said Andy in true Farrell fashion. “You’d think England might have a bounce-back moment against Scotland. I’ll watch that game, I’ll watch ours. I’ll see what we can get better at and I’ll start thinking ahead to England.”

Were he Eddie Jones, Farrell Sr might by now have started playing public mind games with his son. And who knows what antics the Farrells resort to across the breakfast table? But straight bats are all the public should expect on this. More forthcoming are the Ireland players on the influence of their new head coach. Two wins from two, the second a clear improvement on the first, represent a fair return from Farrell’s first forays.

“Any time a new coaching group comes in, they have their own way of coaching,” said Jordan Larmour, one of Ireland’s stars, whose try set them on their way to a 24-14 victory. “Andy’s been great, so has Mike Catt. Everything they say we listen to. We try to put on a performance to make them proud. We’re building nicely. All the lads have massive respect for him. You need that as a head coach.”

A captain, too, needs it. Opposite Farrell Jr, across both scrum and coin-toss, will be Johnny Sexton, Ireland’s fly-half and captain. The Farrell era is his as well, having assumed the captaincy from Rory Best this championship. It seems his for as long as he wants it.

“The respect that the lads have for Johnny Sexton in Irish rugby is incredible,” said Dave Kilcoyne, Ireland’s prop. “We had a meeting last night, the captain’s meeting, and Johnny chaired it, and you’re almost clinging on to the words he says. And it’s the same with Andy Farrell when he speaks. He’s got an incredible way of speaking. Certain people have it, you meet people in life who have it, when they talk they just control the room. It’s complete honesty, it’s straight-talking, it’s positive. There’s no more you can ask for.”

Farrell’s counterpart in Dublin was Wayne Pivac, another new head coach for this Six Nations. If there was something more he could ask for, it was a win but his era in charge of Wales has begun brightly too. Had the fingertips of Hadleigh Parkes found a little more traction, they might even have had that win. A converted try then, just before the hour, would have pulled Wales to within five points. The force might have been with them.

As it is, they pressed for a further few minutes before a scrum penalty allowed Ireland to clear their lines – and thence score the try that sealed them the win with five minutes to go. But for Wales’s butterfingers, the story might have been different. No sooner had they played themselves into the lead with a brilliant try by Tomos Williams in the first half than Williams fumbled a simple catch from a lineout. From the resultant scrum Ireland scored.

Then came Parkes’s fumble to deny them a second try. And that try with which Ireland sealed the win came from the scrum Ireland were awarded when George North dropped a pass in his own 22. Other than that, Wales played a dynamic off-loading game, featuring multiple pivots, many of them forwards, whenever they had the ball.

“We certainly don’t panic,” said Pivac. “It’s minor tweaks, I think. The changing room is a normal one. There’s a bit of emotion there and guys are disappointed in not taking the opportunities that presented themselves in the game. We are obviously frustrated with our performance. We have a couple of weeks now to reflect on that so that we are a lot better in our next performance.”

That next performance will, at least, be back in Cardiff. To win the championship is now out of Welsh hands, but the good news is that they have the chance to derail the campaign of the other team still unbeaten after two, France. In an unfamiliar development, they will be cheering on England the next day, as the latter attempt to perform the same against Ireland.

“The last time we played them they humped us at Twickenham,” pointed out Larmour. “So we’ll have that at the back of our heads. It’s going to be a big week preparing for that and another big test but it’s one we’re looking forward to.”

Just don’t mention the Farrells …

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