Farrell: Winning in Wales ultimate test
Published 12/03/2013 | 22:11
Andy Farrell backed England to come through the "ultimate test" and beat Wales in the hostile Millennium Stadium cauldron to claim their first Grand Slam for a decade.
After all, it is not like they are playing Papua New Guinea away. Farrell has no concerns that his fearless young side will be daunted by the size of the occasion or the noise and anti-English fervour they will face in Cardiff on Saturday.
If he was, Farrell could put it into immediate perspective by recounting the story of the time he led the Great Britain rugby league side to PNG, the most inhospitable place he ever played. "We were chased around the field with sticks. We had to try to jump on a mini-bus, to get away at the end," said Farrell, England's assistant coach.
Farrell was captain for the 1996 Test at Lae Oval and his abiding memory of the 32-30 victory was the squad being rushed onto the team bus to avoid the sticks and spears being brandished by many of the rugby league-mad PNG supporters.
"The mini-bus was backed up to the gates, the gates open and we all had to pile on this mini-bus," Farrell added. "All of a sudden, everyone was hitting this mini-bus and we were saying, 'Go, go, go'. We left a reporter, Dave Hadfield, behind. He feared for his life!"
The Welsh fans will be armed only with pints of beer and nothing sharper than their wit - but in Six Nations terms there is nowhere more hostile for England to chase a Grand Slam. "It is a deafening noise and we have to make sure we're ready for that," Farrell said.
However, Farrell believes England are at their best when faced with just such adversity and he senses a similar air about the squad to the week before they beat world champions New Zealand in December.
Wales have won three Grand Slams since England last swept all before them, the most recent of which was just 12 months ago when they clinched it with a victory over France at the Millennium Stadium.
"When we have had a challenge thrown at us we have responded," Farrell said. "It is the ultimate test to go there and win - but it is where we want to be. Internally, we set out at the start talking about Grand Slams. We didn't want to shout it from the rooftops but you want to aim as high as you possible can do.
"We've put ourselves in this high-pressure situation because we want to be there, to see how you do handle them. It's what makes great teams. It is going to be a tremendous challenge because experience should come through. You would expect trophies to go with the experience."