Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Farrell plays down Edwards head-to-head

Andy Farrell, pictured, was selected ahead of Shaun Edwards for the Lions tour

Andy Farrell has looked up to Shaun Edwards since he was 16 and he continues to do so, holding an ambition to emulate the coaching career of his former Wigan team-mate and mentor.

On Saturday, the two defence coaches will sit in opposite coaching boxes at the Millennium Stadium as the RBS 6 Nations reaches a dramatic finale in Cardiff. Edwards will be aiming to retain the championship title with Wales and Farrell will be looking to mastermind England's first Grand Slam triumph in a decade.

But Farrell played down the notion of Saturday's decider being a head-to-head between the Wiganers. If anything, he views it as the pupil trying to get one over on the master, and he said: "I don't see it as me and Shaun head-to-head, it's the players who are head to head."

He added: "What I would say is that I look at his coaching and playing career - everything he's won so far - and his record is second to none. You can see why that is if you know him deep down.

"As a coach you want to be as good as you possibly can be. That's probably governed by the teams you can build and grow but ultimately at the top level you want to win stuff and Shaun's won a lot.

"I see him as an experienced coach who's been there and done that against a young coach that's hoping to get there. I'm like our players, really. I'm new to these occasions."

The battle between the Farrell and Edwards defences will be integral to the destiny of the championship title on Saturday.

Wales have not conceded a try in three matches. England's whole game is founded on Farrell's high-pressure defensive structure and a character of defiance and resilience that has taken them to within 80 minutes of the Grand Slam.

It is hard to overstate the importance of Farrell's role in the construction of a new England team from the wreckage of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

That impact with England was recognised by Warren Gatland, who selected Farrell ahead of Edwards to be part of the 2013 British and Irish Lions management team.

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