Peter Stringer has said Ireland will look to get under the skin of ‘hothead’ England captain Owen Farrell when the teams meet in their Six Nations clash in Dublin.
The build-up to Saturday’s match, which sees defending Six Nations Grand Slam champions Ireland up against an improving England at the start of a year culminating with the World Cup in Japan, has been stoked by a series of pointed comments from both sides.
Former Ireland scrum-half Stringer, who played alongside fly-half Farrell at English giants Saracens in 2011, said that while the fly-half was a fine player, “you can rattle him”.
The 98-times capped Irish rugby great’s remarks on Tuesday came on the back of England head coach Eddie Jones promising “brutality” from his side at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and his defence coach John Mitchell telling the BBC that Ireland will “try to bore” England to death.
Ireland are favourites to prevail having beaten England in their last two meetings and won 11 out of 12 Tests last year, including a historic home victory over world champions New Zealand.
“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,” commented 41-year-old Stringer, speaking at a sponsor’s event in Dublin.
“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, who was no shrinking violet himself during a stellar career which included a 2009 Six Nations Grand Slam, said Farrell’s fragile temperament was a serious weakness in a captain.
“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,” he explained.
Stringer, who formed a world-class half-back partnership with Munster team-mate fly-half Ronan O’Gara for the bulk of his career, said it was all very well to promise “brutality” but warned several other England players could be provoked into losing their cool.
“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,” said Stringer.
“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 this year.
“They’ll be hurting, they won’t want to see Ireland doing well and going to the World Cup as favourites.”
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits by Marisa Kennedy)