TWICKENHAM: Owen Farrell will attempt to end the Grand Slam hopes of father Andy when England face Ireland in the Six Nations.
Sunday’s match at Twickenham will be the first time the pair have been in opposition since Andy Farrell was appointed Ireland head coach following the team’s disappointing first-round exit at the World Cup.
Promoted from within the setup after Joe Schmidt stood down, Farrell senior has yet to lose as Ireland boss following wins over Scotland and Six Nations title-holders Wales.
Those victories have left the former England dual code international’s current side just 80 minutes away from a Triple Crown.
But they will have to first get past a home team captained by son Owen, with the center a key figure in England’s run to the World Cup final in Japan both as skipper and first-choice goalkicker.
England coach Eddie Jones brought Andy Farrell into rugby union from rugby league while at Saracens, only to dispense with the then assistant coach when he succeeded Stuart Lancaster as Red Rose boss following the hosts’ group-stage departure at the 2015 World Cup.
The Farrells have grown weary of talking about the family dynamics involved when they are on opposite sides.
Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray praised younger Farrell. “I’ve played against Owen and toured with him with the (British and Irish) Lions. He’s an incredible player. Even with knowledge of the way he plays, he’s still able to pick the right options — that’s what makes him really hard to defend and analyze,” he said.
England haven’t been quite the same side since a stunning World Cup semifinal win over reigning champions New Zealand was followed a week later by a crushing 32-12 defeat by South Africa.
They then suffered a 24-17 loss away to France in their Six Nations opener before a hard-fought 13-6 win over Scotland at Murrayfield.
Jones has shuffled his backs, with Elliot Daly returning to full-back after George Furbank suffered a recurrence of a longstanding hip and groin problem.
Jonathan Joseph, normally a center, will mark his 50th Test cap by making his first start in the wing berth vacated by Daly.
Both Daly and Joseph can expect plenty of aerial bombardment from Ireland in a match where an England win would put them right back in title contention.
But Jones said Daly would cope and that Joseph was “a great defender,” with “good jumping skills.”
Powerhouse center Manu Tuilagi returns after overcoming the minor groin suffered in the defeat by France, while Leicester team-mate Ben Youngs is restored to the starting line for what will be the scrum-half’s 100th international appearance, his 98 England caps supplemented by two for the Lions.
In the pack, Courtney Lawes moves from lock to blindside flanker, with Jones explaining the switch by saying: “Ireland have got a lot of good carriers... One of Courtney’s strengths is his ruck defense.”
Meanwhile Joe Marler comes in at loose-head prop, with Mako Vunipola missing for family reasons.
Ireland were forced into making a late alteration on Friday to what had been an unchanged team when lock Iain Henderson pulled out, his place taken by Devin Toner.
This will be England’s first game at Twickenham since thrashing Ireland 57-15 in a World Cup warm-up match in August.
Ireland, though, completed a Grand Slam at ‘headquarters’ two years ago.
And if they can deny England their favored fast start, while the likes of Tadhg Furlong get on top on the scrum, the Irish could yet enjoy another memorable win.