Peter Jackson: This time Farrell v Farrell has added bite

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By Peter Jackson

Andy Farrell has experienced the cruel extremes of Anglo-Irish rugby conflict from both sides, for England in Dublin and Ireland in London.

The losing margin added up to a grand total of 72 points.

As a player, he made his last Six Nations stand at Croke Park 13 years ago on a day when the riotous nature of a home win almost as historic as the occasion has long since been written in letters of gold: Ireland 43, England 13.

As defence coach at Twickenham last summer, he endured the further indignity of being on the receiving end of a worse beating: England 57, Ireland 15. It may have been nothing more than a World Cup warm-up but the roasting hurt.

Next weekend he heads back to what the more aristocratic of English followers still refer to as ‘HQ’ with a shot at another piece of history.

Another win on Sunday week and Ireland’s head coach will have witnessed something unique: Back-to-back Triple Crowns at Twickenham.

This one will be seen as a family affair: Farrell versus Farrell.

It will mean more than it did the last time given that father and son now occupy still more responsible positions than two years ago given their elevation to head coach and captain respectively.

After a hazardous start on the road, England will be relieved to be back home but all the more wary of any opponent fresh from beating Wales with a bonus point to boot.

England have had five head coaches since they last did that to their neighbours in 2006 — Andy Robinson, Brian Ashton, Martin Johnson, Stuart Lancaster, and Eddie Jones.

His entrance in December 2015 led to Farrell’s exit along with attack coach Mike Catt.

Neither will go hungry this week or next for any lack of motivational nourishment to increase English discomfort.

That Ireland are playing for a Triple Crown after the anti-climactic end to Joe Schmidt’s reign is quite something in itself.

No Irish head coach has presided over one in his debut season since Declan Kidney and he, of course, went the whole hog to a Grand Slam. Nobody dares talk about that at such an absurdly early stage, not when next round’s matches might easily leave four of the Six locked on nine points: Ireland, England, France and Wales.

Money has stopped talking and started shouting

The idea of the Springboks competing in a Seven or Eight Nations after the next World Cup ought to alarm those who believe the tournament should be left well alone on the basis that there’s nothing wrong with it.

A weekend report claiming that the World Cup holders will join the sport’s most exclusive group in four years’ time comes with the Six Nations still in the throes of deciding whether to accept a £300m offer from the global private equity company CVC for the competition’s commercial rights.

The home Uunions’ insistence on their 15-match event remaining on free-to-air television might not be the only sticking point.

How their potential partners see the future of the championship could well be another.

Having joined forces to outbid Sky five years ago, BBC and ITV pay £90m for a long-term deal which expires next year. CVC, who reportedly made the equivalent of €7.5bn from their investment in Formula One, now see rugby union as ripe for a similar financial killing.

Money has stopped talking in what used to be the amateur code long ago — it’s been shouting ever since, and South Africa’s entry into the oldest annual international competition on the planet would be one way of changing the landscape on a global scale.

The sport’s governing body, World Rugby, is understandably concerned at by the destabilising effect it could have.

An Eight Nations split into two divisions with semi-finals and a final may generate more millions from television, but it would destroy the very essence of the championship as it stands.

Those who would consider that too high a price to pay suspect that maybe a Trojan horses are being parked in Lansdowne Road, Twickenham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Paris, and Rome.

As someone once said, beware Greeks bearing gifts.

At least this time England picked up cup

At least England’s captain afforded the Princess Royal the common courtesy of turning up to collect the oldest trophy in the game at the end of a day filthy even by Murrayfield standards.

When Edinburgh last weathered a Calcutta Cup storm with enough rain to float Noah’s Ark, in April 2000, the England captain, Matt Dawson, failed to appear.

A Red Rose Grand Slam had gone down the drain thanks to Duncan Hodge playing the game of his life with every one of Scotland’s 19 points.

That left England with the Six Nations title and the Princess Royal waiting in Arctic conditions for someone to deign to climb the steps to the Royal Box.

Nobody arrived and the RFU had no option but to issue a groveling apology to the Queen’s daughter and the Scottish Rugby Union.

Dawson blamed everyone but himself, claiming that nobody had told him about the arrangements.

To the triumphant Scots, it appeared as though the vanquished Sassenachs had thrown a hissy-fit.

No amount of mutual antipathy excuses some of the incendiary pre-match rhetoric about ‘hatred’ and ‘war.’ 

Duggan’s warm-up warning

The late Willie Duggan had many reasons to justify an eternal place as a back-row forward of serious renown, not least his aversion to the warm-up.

What happened to Alessandro Zanni in Paris yesterday would have reinforced the old Irish Lion’s view that the warm-up ended with the last drag of a fag.

Zanni, at 36 the Grand Old Man of the tournament, pulled up during the pre-match routine, a blow which ruined what ought to have been the 14th anniversary of his Six Nations debut at the same venue.

As Duggan could have told him: ‘Warm-ups? More trouble than they’re worth.’

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