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Lancaster: How Henry Arundell reacted to Racing signing Owen Farrell

By Liam Heagney
New Racing teammates Henry Arundell and Owen Farrell on England duty (Photo by Sameer Al-Doumy / AFP via Getty Images)

Stuart Lancaster has explained why the signing of Owen Farrell appealed to Racing 92, adding that he doesn’t envisage any issues between the former England skipper and the youthful Henry Arundell.

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The 32-year-old Farrell was confirmed last Monday as a new Racing recruit on a two-year deal that will begin this summer through to 2026. It’s a contract that will be signed off on next week when the Saracens captain visits Paris to complete his medical.

Lancaster described this medical as a formality, adding that a fee with Farrell has been agreed upon, so there is nothing that should delay the completion of the paperwork. Farrell won’t be the only recent England player on the Racing books under Lancaster, though, as the 21-year-old Arundell signed in the off-season following the collapse of London Irish.

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He has since extended that deal through to 2026, a development agreed upon before it emerged that Farrell – with whom he had an alleged falling out at Rugby World Cup 2023 – was being chased by Racing.

Lancaster suggested on Friday at a media conference over Zoom ahead of this Sunday’s Top 14 game at home to Toulouse that this training ground incident between Arundell and Farrell at France 2023 was overblown and won’t be an issue when the pair become clubmates next summer.

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“Henry is lucky, he has got lots of mentors already,” began Lancaster when asked about the situation for Arundell with Farrell now signed. “But I spoke to Henry about Owen coming and he was super excited. I think slightly too much was made about a very small incident that happened in one training session. I can name hundreds of incidents like that. So no, no, Henry is excited.

“It was a big decision for Henry, as you know, to stay here. He is playing against Toulouse on Sunday night at nine o’clock prime time TV, 18,000 people sell out at the Paris La Defense Arena so Henry is getting really challenged on the back of a young playing profile – he has not played a huge number of Premiership games, never mind international games, so he is benefiting from that.

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“So he is benefiting from just the experience, as Owen will I think. You are never too old to learn, you are never too old to develop, you are never too old to become better and I think all of those things are what excites Owen and part of the reason why Henry decided to stay I think, that challenge.

“Put it this way, I didn’t (want to) finish my career as a coach and think I turned it [the challenge of Racing] down because it was going to be difficult. I’d rather finish at the end and think, ‘Well, I gave it a crack’ – and I think Owen and Henry are in that category.

“I’m pleased deep down that they also trust me, that they trust that I can create an environment that can help them develop as well and we have got great young coaches here, Dimitri (Szarzewski), Yannick (Nyanga), Joe (Rokocoko) and Freddie (Michalak) in particular, and they are excited about working with them as well and picking up new ideas from all the players who come from many different countries.”

Regarding the paperwork to seal the Farrell deal, Lancaster said: “Yes, fee sorted.” He added regarding the necessary medical: “He [Farrell] has got a game this weekend so it’s quite hard to get a medical done. It’s just subject to medical and that will be done next week. He is playing tomorrow [Saturday] I assume. Saracens don’t have a game next week, so it fits better than this week.”

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Asked to shed light on what attracted Farrell to quit Saracens and switch from the Gallagher Premiership to the Top 14, Lancaster suggested: “Owen had made the decision to step away from England for a while and I got the sense from speaking to him he fancied a new challenge and I think, ‘Why not Racing?’

“We have a good relationship, we go back even before 2012 when I was in charge of the age-grade teams and the academies and he used to play for England U20s at the time. Since I left England I have come across him for my sins with Leinster when Saracens beat us in the European Cup final, he has gone on to have an amazing career.

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“He has won six Premiership titles, three European Cups, Grand Slam, World Cup final, 100-odd caps for England, so when a player of that calibre is interested in a new challenge I wanted myself and Racing to put our best foot forward to try and show him an opportunity to develop and grow as a player.

“Owen asked me, ‘What do you see in my game that I can improve?’ There are lots of things I see that I think I’d like to work on him with and I think he is excited by that, he is excited by the challenge of something different at this time of his career.

“He doesn’t have to come to be the captain. We have got an improving leadership model here, strength in depth in leaders… he doesn’t have to come and be the captain or the player-coach, he can be a player and enjoy the experience as a player but also as a family.

“And the challenge of the Top 14, the challenge of working on a new project, the challenge of trying to build something. They are all things that appeal to Owen and his experience, quality and knowing what he brings as a person appealed to me.”

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Comments

5 Comments
A
Andrew 140 days ago

May I suggest that some English rugby fans with much more knowledge about the game than I do set up a nation wide vote by fans to vote on a change of the rules that do not allow overseas players representing England. It is the fans game not the faceless not the “faceless old farts” to quote dear. Old Will.

C
Clive 142 days ago

The PE teacher can deflect all he likes, there is a major issue between Offal and Arundell, tbf it’s not just Henry, the England squad is already a happier place.

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