London: Owen Farrell believes England are on the road to becoming “a special team” as they prepare to travel to Dublin for next Sunday’s top-of-the-table encounter with Ireland.
Farrell, who kicked 18 points in the 38-18 win over Scotland, says Stuart Lancaster’s side are improving fast and is eagerly awaiting his looming duel with the Irish fly-half Jonny Sexton.
The 21-year-old Farrell was outstanding against the Scots, reviving memories of Jonny Wilkinson in his younger days, and was man of the match in England’s four-try win.
“We don’t want that to be a one-off, we want it to happen every week,” he said.
“We believe we’re getting better and better and, hopefully, we’ll keep doing that. If we do, there’s no doubt we can be a special team. We’re not too bothered about expectation — we want to set our own standards.”
Farrell is not big on comparisons, with either Wilkinson or his own father Andy, the former Great Britain rugby league captain, but he is a fan of Sexton, the favourite to wear the Lions No 10 jersey in Australia this summer. “There’s a lot of rugby to be played before then but he’s an outstanding player,” said Farrell.
“His control of games is really good and he does a lot of things other people don’t do.”
England’s head coach, Lancaster, feels Farrell is also developing into a consistent match-winner. “His goal-kicking’s outstanding but he’s developing into a good all-round player now. I’ve always believed in his ability and temperament and his passing game is outstanding off both hands,” said Lancaster.
“Hopefully, as a team, we’ve also shown we can back up the All Blacks game and have a consistency people perhaps doubted we had. We’ll draw a lot of confidence from the Scotland game, particularly from our intent to play.”
Manu Tuilagi should be fit for selection against the Irish, but the No 8 Ben Morgan is a major doubt after twisting an ankle. “We will miss him but James Haskell was outstanding when he came on and we’ve got others to come back into the equation,” said Lancaster.
“James at 6 and Tom Wood at 8 also worked pretty well.” Wood is particularly keen to atone for England’s heavy defeat in Dublin two years ago after they had travelled seeking a Grand Slam. “Ireland is a special place to go and we need to make sure we’re ready,” said Wood.
“The way they rise to the occasion when they play England is going to make it a really tough game for us. “I wouldn’t say we were cocky or over-confident but we perhaps underestimated how quickly they can turn on a performance in Dublin. We undervalued how much they want to upset the English and ruin our party.
“I don’t think there’s any risk of us not turning up this time. You have to bring intensity to every game and we’ve got that within our camp now. We don’t play in fear of what the opposition are going to bring. That’s not what motivates us.”