England Rugby
Farrell welcomes Catt into coaching mix
Huw Richards
September 25, 2012
England coach Stuart Lancaster stands alongside Andy Farrell, Reading, England, September 25, 2012
Andy Farrell joined head coach Stuart Lancaster at the launch of England's new BMW Performance Academy © Getty Images

Far from cramping his style, the addition of Mike Catt to England's coach team is extremely welcome, says defence coach Andy Farrell.

There had been suggestions that Farrell, who has returned to the England set-up after reversing his decision to stay in club rugby with Saracens, would run into conflict with Catt, who filled his place on the summer tour of South Africa before winning a permanent appointment to the team.

But Farrell, speaking at the launch of the Rugby Football Union's new BMW Performance Academy, denied that a four-man team, rather than the trio who operated last season, would be problematic: "Bringing Mike in was a necessity, and I don't see any problem with having four coaches rather than three. I worked in a group of five at Saracens and you only get problems if the coaching group isn't tight. You can have differences of opinion, provided that you are friends, get along and are all pushing in the same direction."

He pointed out that he and Catt have known each other for a long time and have had similar careers: "We went to the World Cup together as players in 2007. I've always found him sociable and friendly and we've since gone on similar journeys and are both ambitious to do very well. I'm delighted he'll be on board."

They also evidently share a taste for detailed debate and discussion about the game: "We had about four hours together yesterday, just chewing the fat. We'll both talk rugby 24 hours a day if need be."

Farrell confirmed that the last few months, during which he first chose to return to Saracens rather than make his interim role with England permanent and then changed his mind, had been 'an emotional roller-coaster' in which his predominant concern had been 'not to let anyone down'.

He explained that his initial decision had been made at the most intense time of the club season, and that it was only when reflecting post-season that he changed his mind. He rejected any suggestion that it had damaged his relations with former colleagues at Saracens.

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"Relations are still very good," he insisted. "I had conversations with Nigel Wray at the beginning and end of it all and he could not have been more understanding and supportive. My friends at the club have all been supportive and I was greeted with open arms when I went back there on England duty."

Wigan Rugby League's other great gift to union defence coaching, Shaun Edwards, is wont to say that 'if you rest, you rot' and seek day-to-day involvement in coaching. Farrell takes a different view: "The advantage of this job is that it does give you time to reflect, take breath and think about your own development. In club coaching you never get time."

While Farrell was present at the first Test in South Africa, he spent much of the summer in Australia, using contacts in both rugby codes and Australian Football to look at their coaching methods. He was able to watch England's later Tests against the Springboks on television: "It was tough because it was about 2am, I had jetlag and I wanted to be there with a walkie-talkie in my hand," he said, but welcomed the change of pace and emphasis of the trip. "It was really refreshing to spend some time on my own personal development, because it was the first time in a long while," he added.

Leaving Saracens means he no longer works regularly with his son Owen, an England debutant last season, but in practical terms makes very little difference. "I'm still his Dad," he pointed out, adding that their professional and personal relationships had always been carefully separated. "We're father and son at home, but he's like any other player at work." Both club and country have decided that Owen, who is 21, is currently best used as an outside-half, meaning that he competes with Toby Flood for the England shirt while rotating with Charlie Hodgson at club level. Farrell said he could visualize his son playing at either 10 or 12 in the long term.

The younger Farrell received copious publicity for his England performances last year, but his father sees no sign of it going to his head. "If he wants to start turning up at the opening of an envelope that's his choice, but I don't see any sign of that," he said. "He's pretty grounded, like all of the young players who have come into the squad."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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