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The Owen Farrell conversations Lancaster is most looking forward to

By Liam Heagney
Owen Farrell in action for England at France 2023 (Photo by Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

Racing 92 boss Stuart Lancaster has spoken about the challenge of trying to successfully gel former England captain Owen Farrell into a strong leadership group with Siya Kolisi, the two-time Springboks Rugby World Cup-winning skipper, and Gael Fickou, a talisman of the France national team under Fabien Galthie.

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Farrell, who took a Test rugby sabbatical following England’s bronze medal finish at the recent World Cup, is set to join Lancaster, his former national team boss, in Paris on a two-year deal, starting with the 2024/25 Top 14 season.

Racing are currently third in the league in Lancaster’s first season in charge, winning their last four top-flight games after a five-game losing streak earlier this spring ratcheted up the pressure on the 2012-2015 England coach who moved to France following a seven-year stint as senior coach at Leo Cullen’s Leinster.

Video Spacer

Nemani Nadolo on his peak and once being considered “too big”

Former Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo chats to Liam Heagney about when he reached his peak and how he was actually at one stage considered too big to play rugby.

Video Spacer

Nemani Nadolo on his peak and once being considered “too big”

Former Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo chats to Liam Heagney about when he reached his peak and how he was actually at one stage considered too big to play rugby.

Lancaster has now reflected on that mid-season unease in his latest episode of his Leaders on Leaders YouTube series, while also sharing his thoughts on the imminent arrival of Farrell this summer.

Asked what Racing expect from Farrell, the 32-year-old looking to lead Saracens to Gallagher Premiership glory before he exits England, Lancaster said: “He will bring a lot. As a player, he has played for England over 100 times. For me, he gets poor press in England because they perceive he is a kicking fly-half or plays for Saracens.

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“Anyone who watches Saracens, the last two years in particular, will see how good rugby he has played and how much of a factor he is within that. You speak to any of the players who have played with him on Lions tours or England players, not one person has a bad word to say about him in terms of what he delivers.

“His understanding of the game is excellent, his quality as a player is obviously excellent. And his leadership credentials are excellent also, but this is going to be very similar to my challenge coming in. Hopefully I’ll help him with that.

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“How does he get his message across? How long does he take? Will he take six weeks before he starts holding people to account? Will he find his feet straight away and lead straight away? These are all topics of conversation I am really looking forward to having with him.

“We have spoken quite a few times. He has got his Saracens head on very much at the moment but very, very soon he will be leaving  Saracens and he will be coming over here July 1 with pre-season looming.

“So with him, with Siya Kolisi, with Gael Fickou who does a lot of the leadership within the French team, what an amazing coaching challenge to try and harness those three players into a strong leadership group supported by your Henry Chavancys, your Cameron Wokis and the other guy, the Nolann le Garrecs who will be future leaders of the team. He will bring a huge amount but it’s not going to be easy, as I found.

“I was speaking to Siya Kolisi only the other day – he has not found it easy. It’s a lot easier for him in South Africa where everyone loves and adores him and he is with his mates who he has grown up with and he misses them.

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“I said to him, ‘Well, I miss Dublin, I miss Leinster, I miss the players, I miss the coaches, miss the people but I needed to do this to challenge myself and to work out where my own strengths and weaknesses are’.

“It definitely has done that with the five-game losses and loads of other things, and Owen will find that and he will return to Saracens maybe as a player or as a coach – maybe as a player/coach, who knows – he will return far better for the experience because it will expose him in areas and it will make him reflect in areas.

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“Hopefully I guess I’d deep down pleased that Andy and Coleen trust me with their son’s development, you know what I mean? So I’ll be there to sort of hopefully guide and steer them as well. We go back long enough. Even though we have not really spoken since I left England, I am sure we can pick up our relationship from when we were together.

“Hopefully there is an advantage in that he knows what it is going to look and feel like. For any player coming to France, particularly when you don’t speak the language that well, having an English-speaking person in the coaching team helps but I don’t think he is just going to speak English.

“Our relationship goes back a while and yeah, it [the recruitment] just happened to be the right place right time. I’m really looking forward to it, looking forward to the challenge of, ‘Can we create a winning team? Can we do it in a year or two years?’”

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