Six Nations 2023: England captain Owen Farrell ready to take on Ireland and dad Andy

Owen Farrell’s father Andy upset him. It’s nothing but light-hearted, but the gifts the Ireland head coach keeps buying his grandchildren are clearly designed to tease his son.

Owen Farrell can’t help but laugh. This is a rare sight. The England captain has an image in his mind of his two boys, Tommy, three, and Freddie, one, in Spiderman and Batman costumes and can’t help but giggle.

“Someone sent us a picture and said they looked like Del Boy and Rodney dressed up as Batman and Robin,” he says, tickled by the iconic image from Only Fools and Horses.

This is the Farrell that most people hardly ever see. He’s a devoted father, but up to this point – on the eve of his tenth Six Nations – he’s almost never publicly admitted he even has children.

But Farrell, now 31, is more comfortable sharing these days so can offer some insight into his life off the field.

His father Andy upset him. It’s nothing but light-hearted, but the gifts the Ireland head coach keeps buying his grandchildren are clearly designed to tease his son.

“My oldest has an Ireland shirt,” explains Owen Farrell. “I asked him why he had one. He said, “This is Grandpa’s team,” and I said, “Then you can wear a suit like Grandpa, not the gear.” They go for anything [sporty] and my dad gave them a Manchester City top, which I’m not happy about either.”

As Owen is a Manchester United fan it was an easy win for Andy. It’s no surprise that the youngest Farrells enjoy being outside — at least their dad thinks they enjoy it.

“I have two little boys who love running around, going to the park, everything,” says Farrell. “I don’t know if it’s more me or him, or if I’m forcing it on him, but with my eldest [Tommy] I’m trying to get him to the driving range a bit.

“He seems to like it, but I don’t know if I’m just telling myself that! I like to play golf, but I don’t have an official handicap. I don’t play enough to turn in that many cards.”

Over the years, Farrell has learned to move past the ups and downs of the weekend games, and having kids has helped him in that.

Farrell has had some downtime lately. He was suspended for three games for a high tackle that saw him miss two Heineken Champions Cup games and – controversially – the Saracens’ Gallagher Premiership game against the Bristol Bears on Saturday, a game he would normally never have played in, However, for which he was sacked by England, he could face Scotland next Saturday.

He has enjoyed time away from the limelight and with his young family.

“It’s hard to be anywhere else when you’re in their company,” adds Farrell.

“It’s a brilliant thing for me. I think it’s helped me not getting too caught up in things – that’s both good and bad. I think with little kids you deal with what’s in front of you. At least that’s how I want to be. They definitely help with that.”

Farrell missed the 2022 Six Nations after injuring his ankle. Looking back now, he thinks it helped him to think about it and come back a better player.

“Obviously you resent not being involved, but when you’re with your family, there’s a good chance you get hurt because you’re around a lot more,” he explains.

“The time spent without them can be tough. Another thing I enjoyed during that time was that I became a real England fan as I was on crutches and boots and couldn’t get around too well.

“I sat at home and watched the games and enjoyed it, although I would have loved it more if I had been there and wished I had been. I got people to watch the games and followed them as a fan.”

Now Farrell will be back in the thick of the action, starting with Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday. Of the new players, it’s interesting to note that Sale Sharks flanker Ben Curry is the one he’s most looking forward to playing with.

“I admire the way he plays,” he says.

Farrell can’t wait for the “nervous energy” and “excitement” he always feels ahead of friendlies and aspires to be the most authentic captain he can be, having learned from the best.

“Hopefully [I’m in] the right mood at the right time,” he adds. “Throughout my career I’ve learned from some of the best. Whether on Lions tours – [such as] that third test in New Zealand to see how Sam Warburton was and how Johnny Sexton pushes everything on the training field and demands from the people.

“It’s about doing the right thing at the right time and drawing from that experience while also trying to be yourself.”

It will help Farrell that his new boss, Steve Borthwick, has walked that tightrope himself as England captain and wants his players to relax at the right time.

When the head coach is off – and that’s hard to come by right now – he’s either biking on a WattBike exercise bike, reading books (Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness, by Steve Magness right now on his shelf) or playing with his children.

Borthwick has mentioned his aptly named children, Chase and Hunter, a number of times since taking the job in England. Do you have any guess as to who Chase’s favorite football player is, knowing his father?

It’s not Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, Phil Foden, Harry Kane or Raheem Sterling – no, the unassuming, hard-working Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson is his idol, of course.

Amid admiration for all of the transplants that Henderson is known for and that the England rugby team will go through over the course of this Six Nations, her head coach knows the benefits of shutting down.

“I can’t quote you the papers on that, but it’s been proven that the best recovery — we do the ice baths and all that stuff — is to spend time with people,” Borthwick says.

“It’s been proven to have a positive impact so we’ll be training hard but I want us to recover the same way.

“That’s why I want us to be able to relax. As long as they feel like they can be themselves, that’s important.”

That mantra is already rubbing off on Borthwick’s captain Farrell, which bodes well for England.

Originally as England captain Owen Farrell ready to get one via Ireland manager and father Andy Six Nations 2023: England captain Owen Farrell ready to take on Ireland and dad Andy

Ryan Sederquist

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