'Farrell must find the right balance'
February 25, 2013
England's Owen Farrell gets to grips with France's Louis Picamoles and Yoann Huget © Getty Images
Farrell appeared to target France fullback Yoann Huget in the opening stages of England's win over France on Saturday and while there were no disciplinary repercussions, World Cup-winning coach Woodward believes that the young fly-half should leave any scraps to his fellow team-mates. Woodward also claims that if Farrell continues to display a tendency to react to provocation, then teams will target him in future Tests.
"Owen Farrell may be the type of player who plays at his best on the edge - tugging people's shirts and having a go - but he needs to find the right balance," Woodward wrote in his column for the Daily Mail newspaper. "You cannot have your playmaker thinking about niggles and personal vendettas when he needs to be worrying about the next lineout or giving information to players around him.
"In the early stages he appeared to be unnecessarily aggressive and twice confronted fullback Yoann Huget. If Farrell has a tendency to look for a scrap, as the stakes get higher and against better teams he will be targeted, and players around him need to know that's going to happen. When teams play England at football, they will target Rooney to put him off his game and this is the same.
"It becomes more of an issue when your fly-half has two out-and-out centres outside him in Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi, rather than a second five-eighth like Billy Twelvetrees to help him orchestrate the game. I'd like to see Farrell walk away and let others get involved instead."
Woodward worked with Jonny Wilkinson while in charge of England and he cited an example from a Test match against the Springboks as proof that leaving personal battles to others can lead to a beneficial outcome for the rest of the game.
"Against South Africa in 2002, Jonny Wilkinson was hit horribly by Springbok lock Jannes Labuschagne, but the team swarmed around to sort it out and the player was sent off. Wilkinson did not get involved. He got up and walked away."
And Woodward believes Owen can learn a lot from his father Andy when it comes to temperament. Woodward added: "Farrell's father Andy is the best rugby league player I've seen - and I saw some amazing players while living in Australia - and a key element of his game was his ultra-competitive nature.
"Now a world-class player has become a world-class coach and Farrell Jnr must harness that fighting spirit as a positive in the same way. He's obviously got his dad's genes, he just needs to keep using them in the right way."
But while Woodward admits Farrell's temperament is potentially cause for concern, former England lock Ben Kay believes the young fly-half's composure is under control.
"Wilkinson certainly tackled aggressively but Farrell's drive is slightly different," Kay said in his column for ESPN. "Some may see that as a cause for concern but it's only a worry if the player doesn't have the ability to control that side of their game and Farrell's appears to have that composure when required. Some of the best players in the history of the game have been spiky characters and it may even take him to greater heights."
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