Owen Farrell eager to escape acclaim ahead of 100th England cap

Owen Farrell will find relief from a week of acclaim over his impending 100th cap for England by losing himself in Saturday’s clash with New Zealand.

Farrell’s acute discomfort with praise will reach a peak the previous evening when Eddie Jones’ squad gather to honour their captain with words and a presentation organised by his Saracens team-mates.

The 31-year-old who grew up dreaming of playing for Wigan, the rugby league team captained by his father Andy, is instead poised to join Jason Leonard and Ben Youngs among England’s Test centurions.

Owen Farrell
Owen Farrell kicks a conversion during England’s win over Japan (Ben Whitley/PA).

“I’m not too good at listening to stuff about myself. The sooner we get on to the game, the better,” Farrell said.

“You’re not used to hearing people say nice things about you. A lot of it normally goes unsaid. I don’t think it’ll go on for too long.

“If you let it, this week can be a lot. I don’t intend on being like that, I intend on doing my job like the rest of the team.”

For Farrell that job involves becoming completely immersed in Saturday’s all-too rare visit of the All Blacks to Twickenham as England reach the critical phase of their autumn.

The three-time Lions tourist describes the contentment of a Zen-like state where only the 80 minutes on the field have any meaning.

“The best part of the games is how engaging they are, when you’re lost in them, when you’re not thinking,” he said.

Owen Farrell in action at the 2019 World Cup
Owen Farrell and England came out on top against New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals (David Davies/PA).

“There’s nothing else going on, there’s no worry, there’s no anything. You’re just in it. It’s timeless. Everything is slow, but time goes so quick.

“It feels like everything is slower. It feels like there’s a calmness to it, but it’s still aggressive. They are conflicting things to speak about, but it happens like that.

“It’s like any big day – say your wedding day or something like that – where it goes so quickly. It’s been brilliant but you don’t know what’s almost gone on at times.

“It’s like that but in a really short, intense, 80 minutes, which is probably why it feels so different to anything else.

“That’s what everyone talks about when they say they are in the zone, or the flow of the game. It’s something that people end up chasing a lot.

“If you chase it too hard it doesn’t come even more, so it’s about being able to let go.”

Supporting from the stands will be his mum Colleen, who on this occasion has opted for Twickenham over supporting husband Andy as he prepares Ireland for their clash with Australia on the same day.

“My mum is not going to watch my dad’s game this weekend, she’s coming to ours. That’s the big one. She goes to the biggest game,” Farrell said.

And, despite the heightened attention that will be greeted uneasily, Farrell’s phone will remain on throughout the week as he reflects on a 10-year Test career in which the periods of adversity have been just as valuable as the highlights.

“Normally those people who have been around a long time will message me. I might not send them a big long message back like you probably should, but I will definitely respond in time,” he said.

“I’ll try to take it for what it is – a game of rugby at the weekend. A big game of rugby and that’s what I’m looking at.

“There have been some really good times in my career and some bad times as well. With that, I’m just appreciative of it all.

“A lot of people would sit here in these moments and talk about all the big wins they’ve been involved in and all the great bits. That’s a big bit of it, but it’s just part of it.

“I was probably more reactive in terms of how up-down I was at the start of my career. Whereas now I’m probably able to accept things a bit more.”