By Ed Elliot, PA, Dublin
Andy Farrell hopes to coax his grandchildren into supporting Ireland when he goes head to head against son Owen Farrell in Saturday’s crunch Grand Slam decider with England.
Farrell junior has been restored to the visitors’ starting XV for the Dublin clash after being dropped to the bench ahead of last weekend’s 53-10 humiliation at the hands of France.
The father and son are well-versed in being in rival camps but their relationship adds an intriguing sub-plot to the St Patrick’s weekend showdown as the hosts seek to clinch a Guinness Six Nations clean sweep.
Ireland head coach Andy admits some subjects have been off limits during recent conversations with England’s skipper as he joked about converting Owen’s young sons Tommy and Freddie into Irish fans.
Our line up for Super Saturday at the Aviva! 💪#TeamOfUs | #GuinnessSixNations
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“We don’t ask questions that put the other person in too much of a predicament,” he said of chats with Owen.
“I know that he (Owen) is travelling over today, he’s not staying too far from our house actually.
“The grandkids are coming over today as well, so we’ll be trying to poach them into our captain’s run tomorrow and see if we can squeeze them to cheer for Ireland. We’ll see how that goes.”
Owen Farrell has been selected at fly-half by Steve Borthwick on the back of last weekend’s record-breaking embarrassment against Les Bleus.
The 31-year-old Saracens player said in January that elder son Tommy had been warned about wearing a green jersey.
“I asked him why he has got one,” he told the Telegraph. “He said, ‘it’s grandad’s team’, and I said ‘well, you can wear a suit like grandad does, then, not the kit’.”
Speaking about Tommy’s Ireland shirt, Andy added: “I’ve told him to bring it, yeah, so we’ll see what he wears on Saturday.”
Ireland are bidding to clinch a first Grand Slam in Dublin and a fourth overall, having done so in Belfast in 1948, Cardiff in 2009 and London in 2018.
Boss Farrell says it would be “stupid” to treat the occasion like any other game but has urged his side to focus on producing a strong performance rather than securing silverware at a sold-out Aviva Stadium as they bid to inspire the Irish population.
“People think we’re chasing a trophy; we’re not, we’re chasing being the best version of ourselves when it matters most,” he said.
“We all know it matters, but performing under that type of pressure is the next step for us.
𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬 midfield battle on #SuperSaturday⚡️#AwakenAnticipation | #IREvENG pic.twitter.com/5GOcTtvnOv
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“It’s not any other game. We’d be stupid to think that, it’s another challenge for us, being at our best. The trophy’s not a factor, it’s us performing that matters the most.”
Farrell has made three changes for the game on the back of a bruising 22-7 round-four win in Scotland.
Lock Ryan Baird and centre Robbie Henshaw replace injured pair Iain Henderson and Garry Ringrose, while scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park will also make his first start of the competition after being preferred to Conor Murray.
Hooker Dan Sheehan and number eight Caelan Doris have shrugged off the issues they sustained at Murrayfield to retain their places.
Farrell expects an England reaction to last weekend’s record-breaking Twickenham horror show, which wiped Borthwick’s men out of title contention.
“Well, it’s what they have been saying, you know Ellis Genge coming out and saying they’re going to fight,” he said.
Steve Borthwick has named our side for #IREvENG on Saturday 🌹@O2 | #WearTheRose
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“Of course 100 per cent they will and they’re going to be formidable opponents for us at the weekend, they are.
“I know the quality of player that they’ve got, and watching them also in the Six Nations and in patches we’ve seen in their attacking game when it has been flowing, they’re as dangerous as anyone in the competition.
“They’ll have the emotional edge, obviously. There’s no better tonic, is there, than getting back out there and playing again and putting a few things right.
“So you’d expect them to be way better than their best so far because I know that’s what is in them, I know the fight that’s in the players and the coaching staff.”