No 'nepotism' in Farrell choice

2014-11-20 09:08
Stuart Lancaster (AFP)

London - England coach Stuart Lancaster said on Wednesday there was no question of Owen Farrell continuing to gain Test selection because the Saracens star's father was on his backroom staff.

Flyhalf Farrell was far from his best during England's opening November internationals, where the 2015 World Cup hosts suffered three-point defeats by both reigning champions New Zealand and South Africa.

The 23-year-old Farrell has started just two matches for London club Saracens so far this season because of a thigh injury.

Yet rather than drop him for Saturday's match against Samoa, Lancaster has moved Farrell across to inside centre with Bath's George Ford set to make his first Test start at fly-half against the Pacific Islanders.

Andy Farrell, Owen's father and himself a former dual-code international, is England's backs coach.

Thanks mainly to Owen's form and his position as England's specialist goalkicker, the thorny issue of what England would do when Farrell junior suffers a dip in form has rarely arisen in the stand-off's Test career.

However, Lancaster said on Wednesday he had dropped Farrell before and would be prepared to do so again.

"If there's a perception that I've never dropped Owen Farrell, then that's wrong," Lancaster said.

"He was dropped in South Africa when we were on tour and he didn't play in any of the autumn internationals in 2012 in the lead up to that New Zealand game."

As for Andy Farrell's role in England selection, Lancaster said: "Can I put that one to bed, please?

"I can categorically say that there is no influence of Andy in the selection of Owen whatsoever. I make the decision. I consult (England attacking skills coach) Mike Catt more than Andy when it comes to Owen.

"Mike has his view but I make the decision on it. Andy has a view, but to suggest that he in anyway would influence selection is completely wrong."

Ford finds himself in a similar position to Owen Farrell at club level, playing for a Bath side where his father, Mike Ford, is the head coach.

"If you ask the players, they will say it is a completely coach-player relationship," said Lancaster of the Farrells standing in the England camp.

"I've seen Mike Ford and George Ford operate in the same relationship."

George Ford and Owen Farrell played in the same England Under-20 side that reached the final of the 2011 Junior World Championship.

They have been involved together in the senior England set-up, but only with Ford coming on as a replacement.

Former England flyhalf Charlie Hodgson has questioned whether Farrell would be happy to take direction from Ford, the younger man by two years, give that it is usually the No 10 who calls the shots among the backs.

However, Lancaster said he was confident the fact his new 10-12 combination had been friends since they were schoolboys meant there would be no problems on the field.

"These two are lads who have grown up together....We're not talking about two strangers meeting on a rugby field. It's not a new relationship.

"It's more for me about learning whether George can run the game from 10 and kick the goals and handle the pressure."

Ford and Farrell both attended St George's School in Harpenden, north-west of London and Wednesday saw Ford recalling how he helped his mate out with French homework so they could spend more time brushing up their rugby skills.

"All we wanted to do was go outside and kick a ball around," Ford said.

"Owen used to come home and say 'come on mate, we need to go outside and have a mess around, do a bit of my homework for me'.

"And I'd say 'OK', so I'd start doing a bit of his French or whatever it was. It was all so that we cold go out and kick a ball around. It was stupid of me when you look back on it."

Read more on:    england  |  stuart lancaster  |  rugby

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