Why Owen Farrell ranks England-Australia rivalry as the biggest in sport
Ever since he was a kid watching his dad Andy grappling with the Kangaroos and usually coming off second best, it’s been ingrained in Owen Farrell that there’s no bigger rivalry in sport than Australia versus England.
Now, after spending much of his own career making the Wallabies suffer for the pain the Kangaroos inflicted on Andy, a legend of British rugby league, Farrell junior is ready to dish out some more punishment of his own at Twickenham in his 100th international.
“For me definitely it was the dominant sporting rivalry I grew up with,” reflected the 30-year-old on Friday on the eve of his 13th match against the men from Down Under.
“I always loved it when the Great Britain-Australia games came around as a kid, and a lot were played in and around Wigan when I was growing up and I got to a fair few of them.”
Farrell smiled ruefully as he thought of how “there weren’t as many good memories back then” with the Australians usually beating his dad’s side, including in the 1995 World Cup final.
Andy was a hell of a player but never did get the chance to play against the Wallabies after he switched codes and became a dual code international for England.
Yet the man who now coaches Ireland also helped mould his boy Owen into a phenomenal player and similarly inspiring captain who’s taken much satisfaction in kicking Australia to defeat in 10 of his 12 outings against them.
The sight of the green and gold seems to inspire something in Farrell.
Over the past nine years for England (including once for the British & Irish Lions), he’s accumulated 156 points in those dozen tests – that’s 13 points a game – including four matches where he’s racked up 20 or more points.
“It’s always been a massive test match, always one you look forward to, always one that you love to be a part of,” he said.
“And I’m sure tomorrow will be no different. They’re a fantastic side, a fantastic sporting nation. There’s a fair amount of rivalry there, so looking forward to it.”
It will be a landmark occasion for the Saracens ace, who missed out on test No 100 – that’s 93 for England and six for the Lions – last week against Tonga after falling foul of a false positive test for COVID-19.
But he won’t be leading his team out, instead leaving it to Maro Itoje to have that honour as the inspiring lock celebrates his 50th appearance.
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