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Re: Rivalries
Posted by: JL904
Date: 18/03/2020 21:59
Sam, first and most important - many thanks for taking the time to research and share this tool, it is fascinating. I have a few thoughts on your Saracens question.

May I venture to suggest that along with a crop of ex-players who subsequently proved themselves as technically excellent coaches - one of them brought an "intangible extra" that's probably impossible to describe accurately, but the term "winning mentality" is p'raps closest. That man is Andrew Farrell.

It's well known he came from rugby league - what many RU fans are less aware of is just how good he was. Although Union was professional when he switched from League, it was still light years behind the 13-man code in it's implementation in terms of fitness, conditioning and attack/defensive tactical aspects. This was brutally exposed in the two cross-code matches in 1996 between Bath and Wigan.

Your fine team were hampered by having played the PC final a week earlier and lost heavily at Maine Road. We (I'm a Wiggin pie-eater) couldn't live with you under Union technical laws in the return match. To Bath's credit they didn't play a forward game second half - to their detriment it meant superior fitness allowed Wigan to make the final score much closer than it may (should?) have been. However, I digress - back to Faz Snr ...

He made his Wigan debut in 1991 (the year when son Owen was born) at 16 years of age - and in his 13 years there the club won 7 league titles and 6 Challenge Cups - including 5 consecutive "doubles". At age 21 he became the youngest ever skipper of the GB team. In a squad bursting at the seams with superstars, he was special - both as a player and an inspirational leader. It's probably not a co-incidence that one of his team mates was a certain Mr Sean Edwards. They both had the mentality that simply cannot be coached - that inner drive to win that people either have, or don't have.

Having taken the decision to switch to Rugby Union, he signed for Saracens early 1995 - but due to a series of injuries and a severe car crash it was late '96 before he made his debut. He was still top drawer, but a shadow of the player he was at Wigan. Sadly, most Union fans never saw him in his prime. Always a keen student, he spent his 18-month lay off learning the intricacies of his new code. Subsequent successes at club, international and Lions level suggest that his time wasn't wasted - but in addition, he brought that inner drive which rubs off and inspires others.

Now, they say the apple never falls far from the tree don't they? Like his father, Owen debuted at 16, driving and chewing out players 10 years and more older. A Lions tourist at 22, his attitude and mentality impressed grizzled old veterans like Paul O'Connell. Team mates for both club and country have attested to his leadership and inspirational abilities.

As I said at the beginning, it's hard to describe, impossible to quantify, and only part of the answer to "what changed in 2009 and beyond?" Andrew and Owen Farrell certainly didn't initiate anything - changes were made by others ... but to my mind, in their own way the pair of them have played a significant part in driving not only the club (financial shenanigans aside), but also England, Ireland and the B & I Lions towards the successes they've had over the last 10 years.

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