With the All Blacks determined to impose their hi-octane attacking rugby on England at Twickenham, Farrell will be tasked with punishing the World’s top-ranked team from the tee and putting them into reverse with kicking skills honed under Wilkinson’s tuition.
Farrell, who has scored 699 points in 62 tests for his country, will attempt to repeat the victory he celebrated in 2012 when England dramatically ended the All Blacks 20 game unbeaten run with a remarkable 38-21 triumph.
However, that is the only England win in the last 15 matches with the All Blacks to highlight the enormity of the task at Twickenham on Saturday where Farrell’s kicking will carry the hopes of the entire country.
Wilkinson had to deal with exactly the same kind of pressure during his World Cup winning career and the man who scored a remarkable 1,246 points – putting him second to Dan Carter – helps Farrell with his kicking as a part-time member of the England coaching staff. Alex Goode, the England and Saracens fullback, was also in the team that defeated the All Blacks six years ago and has seen Wilkinson’s input turn 27-year-old Farrell into the outstanding kicker in the sport.
Goode explained: “Owen has a very big talent and knows exactly what he wants to achieve and is able to deliver the full range of kicks under pressure.
“Owen and Jonny have come out of the same mould in terms of perfection and trying to improve. Owen does a lot of work with Jonny and it is no surprise to see how good his kicking has become.
“The work he does with Jonny has given Owen real precision with his kicking and he is constantly practising so that he knows exactly where that ball is going to land.
“I don’t think I have ever come across someone who, without question, improves with his goalkicking when the pressure gets even more intense.
“That final kick against South Africa last Saturday from the touchline is a great example and it is a talent you very rarely see. I beat him in a kicking contest at the club but there is no way I would beat him in a game situation because he goes to a different level and that is his mentality. He didn’t care about beating me!”
Saracens kick-chase is unmatched in the Northern Hemisphere and Farrell’s ability to give the ball crucial hang-time and land it just outside the opposition 22 will have been forensically studied by the All Blacks in their tactical meetings this week in London. With the All Blacks possessing the best counter-attacking threat in test rugby, delivering a flawless kicking game will be vital and Goode added: “Owen has the ability to punch the ball one bounce into corners, put the high balls up and also deliver the short kicks, the kind you see in rugby league.
“It’s not that Owen gets more hang time than anyone else, it’s that he has a very specific target in mind and he can hit it nine times out of ten within a yard. He gives the chaser the best chance of getting the ball back.”
All Black Ben Smith is a brilliantly balanced counter-attack runner and will be eager to punish any loose kicks that come his way. He said: “Territory is a big part of the way they play and their kicking game allows them to do that so we are going to have to have good plans around how we defuse that and we will go from there.
“We’ll get our chance when we’re kicking the ball to get it back, so it’s all about making the most of our opportunities. We know we are going to have to put in a bit of work on that this week and I think it’s an awesome challenge for us as a back unit to see how we go in that department.
“Obviously if they’re not quite on the money then we’re going to have a plan and it does open up an opportunity if we’re smart so we have to make sure we’re all aligned. It’s a big challenge for us for this week because it’s a big part of their game to nail it so they can get into their game at the right end of the field.”
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