Ireland to target Owen Farrell as he goes into battle against dad Andy's side

A blast from the past as Owen Farrell is pictures during his Wigan St Pats days with dad Andy
A blast from the past as Owen Farrell is pictures during his Wigan St Pats days with dad Andy

Ireland will look to antagonise England’s “hothead” captain Owen Farrell in Saturday’s Six Nations opener in Dublin, according to Peter Stringer.

Former Ireland scrum-half Stringer is the latest to wade into the war of words ahead of the keenly-anticipated Aviva Stadium showdown, insisting England talisman Farrell is prone to losing his cool.

The match sees Farrell coming up against dad Andy, who is the Ireland defence coach and set to take over as head coach after the 2019 World Cup.

And one of ex-Wigan Warrior Andy’s team-mates can’t wait to see the two go against each other.

Jason Robinson, a World Cup winner in 2003, said: “It’s a meeting of two great rugby minds.

“Owen is England’s key man and one of the best players in the world, while Andy is a fantastic coach.

“What is fascinating is that much of Ireland’s preparations this week from Andy and head coach Joe Schmidt will centre on nullifying Owen.”

England defence coach John Mitchell has claimed Ireland will “try to bore the s**t out of us”, while Eddie Jones sniped that Johnny Sexton has the “bat phone to the referee”.

Munster stalwart Stringer paired up at half-back with Farrell in a Saracens loan spell in 2011, and remains convinced there is leeway to wind up England’s hugely-accomplished general.

“Eddie will have them fired up, and you see the likes of Owen Farrell: he’s in charge of everything they do, being captain and having all that responsibility, but he is a hothead,” said Stringer.

“I’ve played with him, he loves that physical side of things, but you can get under his skin, you can rattle him. He is a guy they’ll be looking to get after.”

Stringer helped Ireland to their first Grand Slam since 1948 in the 2009 clean sweep, en route to 98 caps in a glittering Test career.

The 41-year-old believes Ireland will be in for a ferocious onslaught from a wounded England, still smarting from Joe Schmidt’s men toppling them at Twickenham last year to seal just a third Grand Slam in history.

Ireland capped a stunning 2018 by beating the back-to-back world champion All Blacks in Dublin in November, leaving Stringer admitting Ireland enter new ground as favourites.

“If things go well for Farrell, on the front foot he’s a great player but going backward he’s a guy who loses the rag completely, which you don’t want from your captain,” said Stringer. “You can get under a lot of these guys, you can rattle them.

“Ireland’s discipline is very good, England’s not so much – they’ll be looking to start a scrap at every opportunity, just to rattle Ireland.

“It’s going to be intriguing, and how Ireland deal with it will be fascinating, because that brutal nature England always bring will be heightened.

“They’ll be hurting, they won’t want to see Ireland doing well.”