- Andy Farrell on the necessity of physicality in winning Test matches
- “Where the trophies count, you’ve got to be physical in contact” – Farrell Senior
A review of recent England results has reaffirmed Andy Farrell’s belief that winning rugby matches at the highest level is simple; use immense physicality in contact and win the all-important territory and possession battle.
Clinical England inflicted the second heaviest defeat in a New Zealand rugby history spanning 478 Tests by overwhelming the All Blacks with aggression and intensity in December, but similarly, powerful and purposeful Wales romped to the 2013 RBS 6 Nations title with a record 30-3 victory over England in a display founded on ferocious work at the breakdown.
While it must be remembered England have won five of their last six matches, the chastening reverse in Cardiff, as the most recent match, lingers in the memory for the England Backs Coach.
“Ultimately, the game at the top level, where the trophies count, is very simple,” said Farrell, who collected five Championships and four Challenge Cups in a glittering Wigan Warriors career. “You’ve got to win the territory and possession battle, and you’ve got to be physical in contact and be tough up front. That’s what we’ve done in the past, but Wales took advantage of that at the weekend to take the trophy.
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“It isn’t complicated, we were physical, we were on the front foot, we had territory and we had possession against New Zealand, but against Wales we didn’t. They simply had the momentum.”
The emphasis is on learning from all their experiences in Test rugby, both good and bad, as England progress towards the ultimate aim of challenging for the biggest trophy of them all, the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
Mike Catt says you learn more in adversity than success and contextualising the 2013 RBS 6 Nations with the overarching world cup goal in two years’ time, Farrell rightly says England can take a lot from the new situations they have been through as a group.
The 37-year-old said: “Each game presented something different and we managed to deal with that and get ourselves four from four, which was impressive because a lot of the players haven’t been in those situations before.
“In the rain against a very experienced side in Dublin was a challenge and we overcame a side which has been here and done that many a time, I thought we grew a lot with that experience. In the France game the physical battle was very tough and it wasn’t all going our way but we came through that. We’ve managed to find a way of winning, which is what it’s all about.”
England’s defence was a genuine success during the tournament, proving the foundation for the gritty victories over Ireland and France and, with the exception of the 10-minute spell in Cardiff when Alex Cuthbert romped clear for two tries, proved difficult to break down.
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Farrell leads high-volume, high-octane, high-intensity defence sessions in England’s integrated coaching set-up and believes he is approaching the fighting spirit so crucial to his defensive system.
With roots in energy and bounce, it focuses on two men in the tackle and a “white wall” ready to get off the offside line and pressure the opposition behind the gain line, and Farrell outlined his pride in their collective progress.
“I’m very proud, the boys have exactly that. Real pride in the defensive line, real pride in the shirt and pride for one another to fight to keep people out. We’ve been under immense pressure throughout the Six Nations, as you would expect in this level of international football, and we’ve stood strong.
“If you put the whole thing together, you would say fighting spirit and good grit for each other but ultimately we came up short, so there is work to do.”