The history of the Guinness Six Nations is filled with father-son duos making a significant impact but rarely on opposing teams.
Gavin and Adam Hastings have lit up the Championship for Scotland, Émile and Romain Ntamack likewise for France, while Gordon and Keith Wood are both in the category of Ireland legends.
Yet ever since Andy Farrell was appointed Ireland defence coach in 2016, he has come up against a familiar face once per Championship – his son Owen lining up for England.
Now Farrell Sr enters his first Guinness Six Nations as head coach of Ireland, adding another layer of intrigue to the Round 3 clash against the Red Rose, where his progeny will be captaining the opposition.
Both Farrells give fairly short shrift any time a daring journalist hoping for a soundbite asks a question on the subject, as Owen demonstrated once again following a 13-6 victory over Scotland in Round 2 last weekend.
TRYING TO DO OUR JOB
“Every time we’ve played Ireland since my dad’s been there, I’ve answered questions all about that,” deadpanned Owen, in a tone of voice he seemingly learned from his father.
“I can’t see it being too different – maybe a couple more questions but that will be about it.”
With England coach Eddie Jones smirking and chuckling away alongside his captain, the journalist bravely asks a follow-up – positing that surely with Andy now promoted to head coach, that makes the dynamic a little different.
“For you. Not for us. We’re just trying to do our job,” says Farrell Jr. Case closed.
That surely won’t be the last time either Farrell is asked about the familial association in the build-up to Round 3 and a game at Twickenham that could have a big say in the destination of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations title.
But while they might treat the situation as they would any other match, both men have had an undeniable impact on the Championship in recent history.
FARRELL SR MAKES THE LEAP
Having been a star in rugby league, Andy Farrell made the switch to the 15-man code fairly late in his career but made his international debut for England in a 42-20 Calcutta Cup win over Scotland at Twickenham in February 2007.
He went on to make three appearances in that 2007 Championship as the Red Rose finished third in the table, with France lifting the title.
Yet it’s in his post-playing career that he’s had the biggest impact on the Guinness Six Nations – acting as England’s defence coach for four Championships, including helping them to the Triple Crown in 2014.
The now-44-year-old took up the same role with Ireland in the summer of 2016 and was part of the coaching team that steered them to a memorable Grand Slam under Joe Schmidt 18 months later.
When Schmidt left his head coach role following the conclusion of last autumn’s World Cup, the IRFU opted for continuity and Farrell Sr was afforded his first opportunity as an international head coach.
It’s been so far, so good with Ireland winning two games from two in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, although that record will be given a stern examination at Twickenham in ten days’ time.
STRIKING OUT ON HIS OWEN
During Andy’s spell as England defence coach, Owen established himself as an international regular and immediately took to rugby at the highest level.
An elusive Championship title was finally secured in 2016, just months after Jones was appointed and Farrell Sr moved on from his role, as the Red Rose swept all before them to seal a scintillating Grand Slam.
Farrell Jr was a fulcrum of that team at inside centre, dovetailing beautifully with long-time friend and international age-group teammate George Ford at fly-half to form an unstoppable axis.
The Ford-Farrell tandem reunited in 2017 as England won their first four games before running into a well-drilled Irish defence at the Aviva Stadium – perhaps unsurprising, given the man coaching them.
Ireland triumphed 13-9 as father denied son a second consecutive Grand Slam, although the Championship title wasn’t a bad consolation for Owen and co.
It’s been one win apiece over the past two years and now, as the Farrells prepare to square off once more, the latest chapter in this family affair is set to be written.