In an interview exclusive, Andy Farrell tells Stephen Jones from the Sunday Times of England's approach to the recent test series, how even though England lost, they still have come away from New Zealand with their heads held high and a new found confidence and psychological edge
“Well, obviously we were hamstrung. What with coming at the end of our long arduous English season which is patently more difficult, challenging and quite frankly, superior to any of this sugar puff super rugby you see in the south. I mean obviously, all those flimsy tries they score in the Rugby Championship. I scoff at those flimsy tries. Where is the forward domination? The manly men?
"So what was I saying? Oh yes, that’s right, we were hamstrung. My main job in the first test was not to coach, but to highlight to any gullible hack of Wapping (you excluded of course Steve my main man), that we were playing our tenth string team against New Zealand. By explaining our disadvantages we managed to convey: 1) our general superiority - English players also rule the European league; 3) our incredible strength in-depth if we did take those arrogant New Zealanders close; 2) a good excuse if it went tits up because we had sent our schoolboys on.
"But it didn’t go tits up in that first test in Auckland did it? I mean we won! We won every phase of that game! Well, we should have won if there had been more time on the clock and we would have won too if it hadn’t have been for that pesky ref and Aaron Cruden. Well, we deserved a draw at least. We clearly got the better of this aging All Blacks side. We had the edge. We were superior in every facet of the game. Every facet! Except maybe the restarts. Oh, and the lineouts. And general broken play. And the backline of course. And the final score. But other than that – S. U. P. E. R. I. O. R.
"From here we laughed. And we talked. Oh how we love to talk to each other in the dressing room. We stand in a small huddle and use large Churchillian phrases straight from the trenches and we yell them at each other in loud booming voices. We talk of warfare. We talk of pride. We talk of the Black menace that is no more. Once more into the breeches! England Expects! We love to talk to anyone with a dictaphone really. Joe Marler, a man that the Rugby Hall of Fame is no doubt warming a special plinth for in a few years’ time such is his memorable talent, did quite some talking to his mate Mick Cleary, ‘We have banished our inferiority complex! New Zealand are fallible! They are just 15 people on a field, running around, arms flailing, trying to understand the rules as much as the rest of us!’
"James Haskell went (several) steps further saying: ’We are special. We are competitive yet positive and extremely professional … yet humble.' James warmed the bench for two super rugby games in 2012 so he knows all about rugby down there. He told me, 'I will debunk the ‘superhuman’ myth right here. Debunk it I tell you! They are mortal. Mortal! Armchair pundits would have you believe the All Blacks are doing something revolutionary.' Basically what James was saying is that All Blacks are actually really crap when you look closely at it all.
"So it was a slight glitch to lose the second test with our main calvary back. I must admit, I didn’t see that coming. We were playing at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, a venue where we have tasted more success than this All Black team (and yes, beating Georgia and Romania there during the RWC of 2011 for us does count). That All Black backline. We didn’t quite know what to make of them. I mean, they look for overlaps! They run onto the ball at speed! Weird way to play rugby if you ask me. They may think they have flair and brilliance, but we have something greater than that in our very own secret weapon - our SplAshton - swan diving his way over any line he can, even in extra time when we’ve lost the game! Now that’s flair for your right there New Zealanders! Make a note of the crazy way we roll!
"When we found ourselves 2-0 down in the series I won’t deny, we were flummoxed as we were clearly the better team. But we claimed the psychological victory in the end, by drawing with the All Blacks in the last half of that third test. We are on the up now well and truly. As McCaw and co must know, you’re only as good as your last game. We have laid down a marker and the rest of the world are quaking. The tour has been a great sucess for us. We have asserted our credentials. At Fortress Twix we are World Cup Favourites, heck, let's just start calling us World Champs right now shall we?! We’ll ride that chariot into town. We will be there, ready to fight them in the battle. What is our aim? It is victory. Victory at all costs."