Dublin - Peter Stringer has said Ireland will look to get under the skin of
'hothead' England captain Owen Farrell when the teams meet in their Six
Nations clash in Dublin.
The build-up to Saturday's match, which sees defending Six Nations
Grand Slam champions Ireland up against an improving England at the
start of a year culminating with the World Cup in Japan, has been stoked
by a series of pointed comments from both sides.
Former Ireland scrumhalf Stringer, who played alongside flyhalf
Farrell at English giants Saracens in 2011, said that while the flyhalf
was a fine player, "you can rattle him".
The 98-times capped Irish rugby great's remarks on Tuesday came on
the back of England head coach Eddie Jones promising "brutality" from
his side at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and his defence coach John
Mitchell telling the BBC that Ireland will "try to bore" England to
Ireland are favourites to prevail having beaten England in their last
two meetings and won 11 out of 12 Tests last year, including a historic
home victory over world champions New Zealand.
"Eddie will have them
fired up, and you see the likes of Owen Farrell: he's in charge of
everything they do, being captain and having all that responsibility,
but he is a hothead," commented 41-year-old Stringer, speaking at a
sponsor's event in Dublin.
"I've played with him, he loves that physical side of things, but you
can get under his skin, you can rattle him. He is a guy they'll be
looking to get after."
Stringer, who was no shrinking violet himself during a stellar career
which included a 2009 Six Nations Grand Slam, said Farrell's fragile
temperament was a serious weakness in a captain.
"If things go well for Farrell, on the front foot he's a great player
but going backward he's a guy who loses the rag completely, which you
don't want from your captain," he explained.
Stringer, who formed a world-class halfback partnership with Munster
team-mate flyhalf Ronan O'Gara for the bulk of his career, said it was
all very well to promise "brutality" but warned several other England
players could be provoked into losing their cool.
"You can get under a lot of these guys, you can rattle them.
Ireland's discipline is very good, England's not so much - they'll be
looking to start a scrap at every opportunity, just to rattle Ireland,"
"It's going to be intriguing, and how Ireland deal with it will be
fascinating, because that brutal nature England always bring will be
heightened this year.
"They'll be hurting, they won't want to see Ireland doing well and going to the World Cup as favourites."