- Andy Farrell chats to RFUtv about excitement at prospect of new combinations
- Backs Coach discusses emotional aspect of pre-match talk in the media
Backs Coach Andy Farrell is excited by the prospect of missing Manu Tuilagi, the Leicester Tigers centre who has scored four tries in England’s last four games, for the RBS 6 Nations opener against Scotland.
But given this England regime’s propensity for giving new players opportunities, this is not a sadistic pleasure in purposely making things difficult, more a desire to see another individual or playing combination exhibit their talent at Twickenham.
This time last year Stuart Lancaster named eight uncapped players in his match day 22 for the opening game at Murrayfield and the policy has continued, with the likes of Alex Goode, Joe Marler, Joe Launchbury and Tom Youngs all making first starts since then.
“Any side is going to miss a player with the talent of Manu’s but it’s getting quite exciting when we get injuries, especially to top-line players because it gives someone else a chance,” said the former dual-code international.
“We want to grow a team and build a squad and we want everyone within that to gain a bit of experience, because we want to keep finding out about people along the way.”
Photo: Getty Images
Head Coach Lancaster named his match day 23 for the match at Twickenham on Saturday, with the potential replacements narrowed down to Gloucester Rugby’s uncapped Billy Twelvetrees and Leicester Tigers’ Toby Flood.
Whichever personnel and positional permutation England choose, it will be a new combination and Farrell outlined why it’s important to have competitive training sessions, where the coaches are assessing every detail.
The former Great Britain Rugby League captain said: “You don’t throw people in just because you want to give them a chance, you throw them in because they’re ready. We pick people on form first of all and then we genuinely watch, look and listen to what they’re doing in training.”
“We look at how combinations work together and tend to leave it as late as possible to give everyone a chance of showing what they can do. It’s a good recipe because it gets the best out of everyone in training and everyone stays involved right into the last minute.”
People affiliated to Scotland, including interim Head Coach Scott Johnson and former Head Coach Jim Telfer, have been talking about England in the press in the build-up, with Johnson suggesting there is nothing better than spoiling the party at Twickenham and Telfer telling the Daily Mail England are “too arrogant, pretentious and condescending.”
Photo: Getty Images
Farrell did not achieve all he did in rugby – starting a trophy-laden career for Wigan at 16 and skippering GB at 21 – without drawing on the emotional side of the game and, with the wry smile of a man who has handed out the odd taunt in the past, said it is part of international rugby.
“We’re under scrutiny in international football, which rightfully so sells a lot of papers and a lot of television channels so this is what’s going to happen.
“We’ve got to make sure we channel our focus on ourselves and make sure our house is in order. We’ve all said stuff in the past that is a jibe here, there and everywhere, but it’s always tongue-in-cheek really.
“Anyone who makes a comment [about England being arrogant] doesn’t really know the truth about this squad, it’s something that we’ve tried to pride ourselves on in the last 12 months. Every one of the citizens in this squad is a good person.”
While it’s hard to imagine the Farrell of the 1990s not having a few pre-game tete-a-tetes with Shaun Edwards or Denis Betts in the Wigan dressing room he says modern rugby has advanced to a cool focus on one’s job for the team, rather than banging heads together.
And therein lies his aim before the Calcutta Cup clash this weekend: concentrate on England’s processes and progress and not get drawn into simply meeting Scotland’s “fire with fire”. Farrell is far too experienced to overlook the powerful force of a “wounded animal with nothing to lose” arriving at Twickenham.
Lancaster will name his starting line-up at 10.15am on Thursday morning, with an exclusive RFUtv interview discussing who he has chosen and why.