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VIDEO – Farrell wants aggressive, error-inducing defence

14 March 2013

  • Andy Farrell does not judge quality of England’s defence on missed tackles
  • Backs Coach wants “lack of clarity of thought for opposition” in Wales

Andy Farrell knows England’s defence must be at its intimidating, error-inducing, aggressive best if they are to subdue Wales and win a first Grand Slam since 2003.

England have conceded four tries in four consecutive RBS 6 Nations victories and in discussing their defensive performances, the former Rugby League superstar explained how the coaches do not measure success on missed tackles alone.

The England Backs coach, who leads on defence, said: “We don’t tend to go on how many missed tackles, we look at what type of pressure we’ve put on the opposition as a collective and as how many errors we’ve forced from the opposition as group.

England lock Joe Launchbury tackles Gonzalo Garcia of Italy

Photo: Getty Images

“And also how our defence has worked as a unit to try and get the ball back, which helps us score tries or points.”

England’s “white wall” defence is based on two men in the tackle and a line of defenders on their feet ready to fly off the line and “go and get ‘em” as Farrell often howls in training.

For the former Wigan Warrior, imparting an element of doubt into the opposition’s mind as they approach England’s defensive line with big hits – or near misses for that matter – is a critical part of what they want to achieve.

“There’s a lack of clarity of thought for the attacking side [with our line speed] and certainly the next time that person gets the ball he’s going to be aware of that,” Farrell said. “And if our defensive system is good enough, we’ve got each other’s back.

“A missed tackle could see that player tackled within half a second just behind the initial tackler’s back, which isn’t that damaging to the rest of the team.”

Farrell respects the organisation and innovation in Wales’ attacking unit and has observed the confidence they’ve gathered in recent victories by successfully executing their game plan.

Wales full back Leigh Halfpenny carries strongly against Scotland

Photo: Getty Images

With what Farrell considers Wales’ strongest team available, he knows it will be as exacting a defensive examination as England have faced to date in the tournament. 

He said: “Wales have a well organised attack, they have a certain way of playing, although within that they’ll throw a few tricks in, whether it is at the set-piece or kicking. We’ve got to have all bases covered but they have a style of general phase attack that has been very successful over a long period of time. 

“They’ve gained some confidence [in how they execute their attack] in the last couple of games, basically because they’ve got their people back fit. They’ve got their best side ready and available for the weekend.”

Farrell was Great Britain Rugby League captain at just 21 and in trophy laden career, delivered performances on many of the sport’s big occasions, scooping five Championships and four Challenge Cups at Wigan. With England one game away from a first Grand Slam in a decade and only a seventh since 1928, Farrell is proud that the young group have even reached this position.

Andy Farrell barks an instruction during England training at Pennyhill Park

Photo: Getty Images

Referencing the old sporting adage that ‘you judge a player or team by their trophies’, Farrell said: “We’ve very proud of what we’ve achieved so far but in any development you want to try and develop to the top, and the top is about winning trophies.

“We haven’t been in situation before where we’ve had big pressure or expectation of actually putting our hands on a trophy and it’s another step in our development but to get here as soon as we have is tremendous.

“For a set of players, where 11 of them have not even been to the Millennium Stadium before says it all about this group. It’s a young group that is meeting challenges every single week. It’s a big one at the weekend, but we tend to be very good at standing up to big challenges.”