Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

'We'll see if we can squeeze the grandkids to cheer for Ireland'

Andy and Owen Farrell are on opposite sides once again this weekend in Dublin.

THIS WEEKEND IS all about the big game but it’s a bit of a reunion for the Farrells too.

Ireland boss Andy and his son, England out-half Owen, have become well accustomed to being on opposite sides over the years. The occasion is bigger this time around, but it’s nothing new to two men who are ultra-professional.

So they spoke this week as they normally would, even if rugby was off the cards.

“We don’t ask questions that put the other person in too much of a predicament,” explained Andy with a smile this afternoon. ”He’s not staying too far from our house actually.”

Owen’s wife and two sons are over in Dublin for St Patrick’s weekend too, meaning Andy is looking forward to being around his grandchildren.

“We’ll be trying to poach them into our captain’s run tomorrow and see if we can squeeze them to cheer for Ireland,” said Andy. “We’ll see how that goes.”

Of course, Andy’s mission to get Owen’s kids to support Ireland has been ongoing for a while. The England skipper recently joked that he wasn’t happy with Andy for sending an Ireland jersey over to his older son, Tommy.

“I’ve told him to bring it, yeah, so we’ll see what he wears on Saturday,” said Andy today.

Jokes aside, there is business ahead for both Farrells this weekend. Ireland head coach Andy was in relaxed form at his press conference in the Aviva Stadium this afternoon, having just named his matchday 23 for the clash with England. Meanwhile, Owen is back in England’s number 10 shirt after surprisingly being dropped for the hammering against France last weekend.

rugby-union-rugby-world-cup-2015-pool-a-england-v-uruguay-city-of-manchester-stadium Andy and Owen Farrell during his time coaching with England. PA PA

Ireland boss Farrell was relieved to include Caelan Doris and Dan Sheehan in his starting XV after their recovery from the injuries they suffered against Scotland last weekend.

“Two players for the big stage,” said Farrell of the hooker and number eight.

The other change to his starting side sees Jamison Gibson-Park come in at scrum-half in place of Conor Murray. Farrell said “gut feel” was behind that decision as he backed Gibson-Park as “the right man to go and attack the game.”

He’s confident Rob Herring and Kieran Treadwell can add some oomph off the bench, while Farrell pointed out that Stuart McCloskey has been “unbelievably unlucky” to miss out as Jimmy O’Brien’s versatility “gives us good scope off the bench.”

It’s a huge opportunity for Ireland on Saturday but Farrell was in calm form today. It was put to him that there’s everything to lose for his team this weekend.

“No there’s not,” he replied, “it’s a game. It’s a game of rugby and we always challenge ourselves, and that’s something we do pretty well.

“The week’s been pretty abrasive if I’m honest in regards to what we need to be better at and where we need to take our game, and the expectation of making sure our best is saved to last is key for us.”

That was the point Farrell kept coming back to – he wants Ireland to be utterly focused on delivering their best in what is essentially a final. The trophy and the glory will be products of what his team shows in their performance.

“We’re chasing being the best version of ourselves when it matters most,” said Farrell. “We all know it matters, but performing under that type of pressure is the next step for us.”

a-view-of-the-aviva-stadium The Aviva should be rocking on Saturday. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

That this finale is in Dublin has been a massive motivating factor for Farrell and co. They identified that the fixture list meant they could tee up something special at the Aviva Stadium on St Patrick’s weekend.

Now they’re expecting a raucous occasion on Saturday.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about from day one coming in, before we went to Portugal [before the Six Nations], that it’s not been done here,” said Farrell.

“We’ve earned the right to have a go at that so we know how much it means to the Irish people and their support has been unbelievable for us and I hope there’s a bit of a two-way thing on Saturday where we try and get them going and they try and get us going as well.

“You can feel the buzz. That’s what we’ve done, we’ve put ourselves in a position to have a crack at this and it’s something that we’ve been up front about from the beginning, which is pretty pleasing. Now we’re here, we’ve got to deliver.”

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