Owen Farrell can’t wait to get stuck into his all important play-making battle next Saturday against Johnny Sexton.
The two out-halves, so instrumental in guiding the Lions to their 2017 Test series draw in New Zealand, have become a meaty sub-plot in recent years whiner England have taken on Ireland in the Six Nations.
Now they are set to renew rivalry on the grandest club stage of the all, the Heineken Champions Cup final which will feature Farrell’s Saracens against Sexton’s Leinster in Newcastle.
Rest assured they will become the best of enemies once Jerome Garces blows his whistle to get the eagerly awaited final underway. However, the build-up has allowed an opportunity for Farrell to outline the similar characteristics he shares with Sexton, attributes such as leadership and a ferocious will to win.
“Maybe we’re a bit similar,” admitted Farrell in a BT Sport interview ahead of the decider where they outcome will either be Saracens winning a third title in four seasons or Leinster winning their second in succession.
? The heartbeats, the conductors, the play-makers, the game-breakers ?
Glory for @leinsterrugby's talisman? ?
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 8, 2019
“You’d have to ask someone else. He’s intelligent in the way that he sees the game. I think he’s very clear in what he’s doing and he’s very good at executing on the back of it. He’s obviously competitive.
“He demands a lot out of the players around him and himself. You can definitely tell that when you play against him. I get on well with him. He’s obviously a brilliant player, as he’s shown for the past however many years. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Saturday’s showpiece is a rematch of last season’s quarter-final in Dublin where Leinster dethroned Saracens and went on to take their title. That was the London club’s last defeat in Europe and Farrell believes that pain has been an influence in getting them two steps further along the line this season and into a final.
There was a post-training treat waiting for the lads yesterday… ? pic.twitter.com/gPi3urGxDR
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) May 8, 2019
“Defeats make you more open to having a proper look at yourself,” he explained. “As a team that defeat helped us for the rest of the year in many ways. It tightened us up. It made us focus in on things. It made us debate where we were at and where we want to go. You subconsciously become miles more open to looking deeper into what you’re doing and seeing what you can do to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“It was good for us last year but it’s not something we’re caught up on now it’s not something we’re talking about. From that point on we were a lot clearer, certainly a lot more excited about where we’re heading.
“I guess it [a possible third European title] just adds to the history of what we’re trying to do now. When you look at all these big clubs and all those stars by their name you look at it in admiration and think ‘what a club’.
Leinster have played some beautiful rugby en route to this weekend's Champions Cup final ?pic.twitter.com/jzJFU88Ibs
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) May 8, 2019
“We’ve done pretty well over the past few years but we’re still pretty new to it so we want to keep it going and not take it for granted that we’ve been in a few finals. We want to make sure we make the most out of each opportunity we get and we’ve put ourselves in a good position this year.”
Brad Barritt’s fitness will determine whether Farrell will be skipper for the final. “Since a kid I’ve always been put into those sort of roles. I’ve always been the loudest. I guess that’s why I was always put forward as captain when I was younger. You can’t shut me up when I’m out there.
“Obviously I’m still trying to get better at the leadership side of things. Brad [Barritt] does a brilliant job and we’re getting better and better at being aligned, being on a similar page so we can lead together.
“That’s what you want in most environments… not just one person, you want to have as many people as possible leading. I don’t think there’s anyone here that thinks so much of them self that they think they’re right all the time.
“To have a debate and disagree about what’s happening is good for clarity and getting on the same page. It’s good for questioning yourself, as well, which hopefully leads to a better outcome.”
WATCH: Part four of The Academy, the RugbyPass documentary on the Leicester Tigers
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now