For Colleen Farrell there is such a thing as too much rugby. She obviously knew what she was letting herself in for when she married Andy Farrell, the former Great Britain rugby league star and eight-time England centre in the union code. But with son Owen now the bright young thing of English rugby, talk of the oval ball can become tiresome.
“I still live at home so I talk to my dad a lot,” says Owen Farrell, 20. “We watch every game on TV, too, and my mum gets fed up with us constantly talking about rugby. She always comes to watch us play and loves it, but at times she wants to talk about something else.”
Unfortunately for Colleen, family conversations look likely to be dominated by rugby for some time to come as Owen’s career continues to move to higher levels. When injuries saw a teenage Farrell parachuted into the Saracens No 10 shirt last year, little was expected, but he took to top-flight rugby like Pat Sharp to Bushtucker Trials in I’m A Celebrity… The goalkicking responsibility didn’t phase him and he excelled throughout the season, his boot providing 17 points in the 22-18 Aviva Premiership final win over Leicester.
He has continued in much the same vein this season, even if he’s more often playing in the centre, with new signing Charlie Hodgson lining up at fly-half. Farrell insists that he doesn’t mind where he plays and is just enjoying the chance to learn from his more experienced team-mates.
“I got an opportunity last season because of injury and I had to learn quickly,” he says. “Having great players around you and good coaches helps you through it. Wherever I fit in to contribute to the team, I’m concentrating on playing well. I’m still learning and looking at what I need to improve and work on. I learn from playing in the Premiership and I learn off the players around me too.
“It’s great being involved in this team and playing with these players. I talk to players at the club like Charlie Hodgson, Brad Barritt and Neil de Kock about rugby all the time. It’s great to play inside and outside players like that. Charlie’s a fantastic player and he’s got a wealth of experience, so to tap into that is brilliant for me.”
Farrell is a confident person and has no qualms about asking for advice, saying: “I’ve always been interested in asking questions.” He’s not quite so keen on answering questions about his prospective rise into the England team. The clamour for him to be included in his country’s RBS 6 Nations squad has been growing in recent months but the man himself won’t be drawn on the topic.
“I’m just going to try to keep getting better as a player and do my best to contribute to this Saracens team,” says Farrell. “I’m just going to focus on the match ahead and contributing to that. I’m going to keep working hard, keep improving as a player and playing for Saracens, and if anything comes from that it will be a bonus.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to live in the now. I try to be the best I can be today and tomorrow I’ll be the best I can be then.”
The best he is right now, with his combination of accurate goalkicking, fluid passing, strong running and hard tackling, is good enough to play for England. So while he is doing his upmost to avoid the hype, he seems destined to follow in his father’s footsteps sooner rather than later – and should, in fact, enjoy more success in the union code. Dad Andy made his rugby league debut for Great Britain aged 18 and was the youngest-ever captain of the side three years later, but he didn’t have the same flourishing career when he crossed codes as a player, though he has impressed as a coach for Saracens.
If Farrell junior, who insists it’s not a problem working with his dad every day as it’s all he’s ever known in a professional rugby environment, does make the step up to Test level this season, he’s sure to approach it in the same cool and collected manner with which he deals with crucial kicks at goal. He often looks like the calmest person in the stadium as he lines up a penalty and it’s that mentality that has impressed so many observers.
“When you’re kicking you have to be like that – to be focused on the job,” he says. “Most people get nervous before matches but once you get out there you just have to focus on what you’ve got to do. It’s a mixture of being composed and knowing your job while at the same time being competitive. It’s something the team does really well.
“We’re a very aggressive team, but we know our jobs and work hard for each other at the same time. I like to get stuck in and playing at ten it’s about getting the balance right between doing that and stepping back and doing what the team needs. I love everything about rugby – it’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve always played rugby, be it league when I was younger or union now. It’s a brilliant game to play and I enjoy every minute.”
He could be enjoying life on the international stage soon too. He may want to play down his England chances, but his feats on the field are doing anything but. It’s now a question of when, not if, he wins his first cap for England.
This article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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