JONES: BEST DAYS AHEAD FOR FIFTY-CAP FARRELL
OWEN FARRELL wins his 50th cap for England today, having become the heartbeat of the team in the so far invincible regime of head coach Eddie Jones.
That’s obvious enough from the brilliance of his performances during England’s current run of 16 consecutive international wins, which should become 17 today against Six Nations makeweights Italy.
It is a reality confirmed by the focused conversation of Jones. He doesn’t talk about the first 50 matches for Farrell but the certainty of the next 50 ahead.
Nobody is guaranteed a place in the England team under Jones. He keeps telling us that in his combative, direct way. Yet he also talks with a conviction that Farrell is there to stay. Jones handed the England star his professional debut when he was briefly the coach of Saracens back in 2008, and he knows his man. “You could tell when he was young that Owen would always be a driven player – driven to be his best,” says Jones. “It was almost inevitable he would be a first-team player at Saracens. If you’ve got that amount of desire and a reasonable amount of natural ability, you are going to be a good player. “But I don’t think he’s as good a player as he can be yet and that’s the great thing – because his next 50 caps will be better than his first 50, much better. He is starting to develop an aura and that’s because he is so consistent. Being a great player is about being consistent and that’s what we will see from him going forward.” Farrell has been described as a mixture of 2003 World Cup heroes Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson, perhaps the two greatest figures of the English game. It is a comparison that Jones stamps on firmly. “I don’t think Owen should be compared to other players,” he says. “He is Owen Farrell and he is a different player. I think he’ll be disappointed that his win record from his first 50 Tests is less than Jonny Wilkinson’s. I am going to guarantee that in his next 50 his winning record will be better than Jonny Wilkinson’s.”
For the moment Dylan Hartley is the England captain. The strength of Jones’ words about Farrell, the conviction that they will enjoy success in tandem, is a clear indication of who will be the next skipper.
One of the curious aspects about Farrell now is that he is playing at inside centre for England when his favoured club position is fly-half.
That allows Jones to accommodate George Ford and provides long-term options for team development.
Farrell is 25 and has matured as an international, cutting out moments of temperamental folly from his early days.
“That comes with age,” says Jones. “Everyone is quite hot under the collar when they are young – you don’t have patience. But you learn patience and you get patience with age.”
The edge hasn’t left him, though. “I want them to win, mate,” continues Jones. “As long as they are doing everything that they can to win.
“You can do that in the most overt way, and be yelling and screaming and punching your chest, or you can do it in a quiet way. Either way, it doesn’t matter. You look at George Ford and Owen Farrell – there is no difference in their desire to win; one expresses it in a different way.”
Yes, and the noisy one is the player destined to be the next England captain, and the one guaranteed to reach 100 caps and more.
MILESTONE MAESTRO: Owen Farrell will win his 50th England cap today