g>Adam Hathaway, rugby correspondent of The People, has a look at the latest furore surrounding Owen Farrell and looks at the winner of World Rugby’s Player of the Year award.
It is a Monday in November, it is cold and the Christmas adverts are in full swing. So far, so normal and even more normal we are talking about Owen Farrell again.
Apologies and we won’t do so for a while, or at least until he is the news again. So probably next week.
Over the last few weeks we have talked about his brilliance, his leadership, co-captaincy and his tackling. And his tackling is all over social media again which is a bit odd when you consider who his old man is.
There is more than three-and-a-half stone weight difference between Farrell and the bloke he is supposed to have assaulted on Saturday – maybe the Australians have got a problem. If attitude wins a tackle then Farrell won that hands down but everyone has had their quid’s worth.
Maybe Farrell should have a look at his tackling technique because it may cost England sometime down the line, he has got a bit of a reputation and officials will be looking for him, but this time he got away with one.
Eddie Jones was not that worried about it. After all he had just overseen England’s third win of the autumn and chuck in a narrow, one-point, defeat to the All Blacks and he would probably have bitten your hand off for that a month ago, especially in light of the disastrous Six Nations. He had a pile of injuries to contend with but saw the likes of Ben Moon, Mark Wilson and Joe Cokanasiga come through.
If you turn it round the other way though you could say this. England won a game they shouldn’t have won against South Africa, lost a game they should have won against New Zealand and struggled to put Japan away until you know who came off the bench.
Then they put a Wallaby team to the sword who came to Twickenham with four Tests wins out of 12 this season in the ledger then there was more Farrell action.
You pays your money and you takes your choice and that is the way it is with the Farrell furore. For the ninth time this autumn.
So here we go again, as Whitesnake once sang, so you can pay your money and take your choice.
Just before half-time in England’s 37-18 win over Australia at Twickenham on Saturday the Wallaby lock Izack Rodda was flying towards the try line but Farrell was in his way.
Farrell knocked him, and himself, into the middle of next week with a tackle that probably was not legal as he did not look as if he was trying to wrap his arms around the Aussie. We have been here before with Farrell’s tackle on Andre Esterhuizen, the South African, in opening game of the autumn series.
We reckon Farrell’s challenge then was okay but he is the sort of player opposing fans love to hate whether he is playing for Saracens, England or the British & Irish Lions hence the catcalls and he got plenty of them.
You won’t find a bigger Farrell fan than RugbySpy but we also reckon he might have dodged a bullet this time and it could easily have been a card, yellow or red, and a penalty, or even a penalty try.
But we reckon that Wallaby boss Michael Cheika has more to worry about when he thinks about the incident than the fact that Farrell’s challenge might have been borderline illegal.
The referee Jaco Peyper was heard to say to the Aussies that Rodda was leading with his shoulder as well but Cheika was not taking that and the ref probably should have had a look at it. We seemed to spend more time at the women’s game between England and Ireland that night looking at TMO decisions than actual live rugby so one more, and only more, might not have hurt. But hey, ho. Them’s the breaks.
“The justification that Rodda tried to take him on with his shoulder is ludicrous,” Cheika told us. “That’s what the referee said. That’s what you do when you carry the ball. I went to the referee’s meeting they had here in the first week before the Wales game. And they referred back to the Owen Farrell tackle against South Africa. And the referee’s left Angus Gardner out to dry by saying that that should have been a penalty in front of all the coaches.
“And if that’s a penalty, this is three penalties.”
That is all well and good but if we were coaching the Wallabies we might be more worried about the fact that one of our second rows could not run through a fly-half five metres from the line.
One website rugbyonslaught.com referenced the case of the huge Toulon lock Romain Taofifenua being red-carded in his side’s 36-25 defeat to Bordeaux-Begles at the weekend.
Taofifenua is not too shy of 22 stone and he was done for something similar to Farrell but Farrell got away with it and this time he might have been lucky. There is even something doing the rounds on social media about a new pub opening in Twickenham called the Farrell Arms, but no-one can find it. Harsh.
Some said that Farrell did try to wrap his arms, after the tackle though and he didn’t manage it, and came off worse in the collision than Rodda. Hardly surprising considering the weight differential and Farrell did bounce back a few feet. But the England try line was intact and Farrell won’t mind wearing one for that even if the ref didn’t go for a video assessment.
Cheika was up in his coaches’ box pointing at the pitch, the Aussies got a three-point penalty for an earlier offence and his captain Michael Hooper would only give us this in the post-match presser.
“As a ball carrier, you carry with your shoulder,” he said. “Simple as. I was surprised there was no look at it. We were waiting for the TMO to have a look but there was not look, which I thought was quite surprising. We took the three points and moved into half time.”
Jones, perhaps mischievously as usual, said: “The referee said it was good mate. When he says it’s not good, we’ll have a chat about it. When you hit people hard, you place yourself at risk. And he hits people hard. I like people being hit hard. There’s a judgement area all the time in that. Obviously we want to be within the laws. Owen doesn’t try to tackle outside of the laws so he’ll keep on working on that.”
But one’s thing for sure, you would rather be on Farrell’s side than playing against him and Jones will keep it that way.
The World Rugby Awards were held in Monaco on Sunday night, why they can’t have it in London, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, Auckland, Sydney, Suva, Paris, Johannesburg or anywhere else where they play the international game is beyond us but maybe that is one for the bean counters.
But it did not need a number cruncher to work out who should be World Player of the Year. We could have told you the result about a week ago just after Ireland beat the All Blacks in Dublin.
For the record the nominees were two-time winner Beauden Barrett, of All Black fame and his team mate Rieko Ioane, South African pair Faf de Klerk and Malcolm Marx and Ireland’s Johnny Sexton.
Sexton was the stand out candidate after winning Pro14 and Champions Cup titles with Leinster, helping Ireland beat Australia 2-1 away helping them beat the All Blacks last weekend in Dublin. Well, short of Ireland winning next year’s World Cup, Sexton winning the Open Championship at Royal Portrush and riding the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
It was a no-brainer, surely World Rugby couldn’t screw this one up. If fly-half Sexton was ever going to win the award this was the year. One bookie was quoting Sexton at 1-8 to become the second Irishman, after Keith Wood back in 2001, to cop the trophy and they don’t get things like this wrong too often.
And World Rugby did the right thing by handing it to Sexton – and about time too.