Owen Farrell Rugby World Cup 2019: Why talismanic captain Owen Farrell is the ice in England’s veins

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Adam Jones tells a funny story about the first time he came across Owen Farrell in international rugby. The year was 2012, Wales were hunting the Triple Crown, and if you were looking for potential weak links in the England line-up, then a 20-year-old fly-half making his Twickenham debut seemed like the ideal place to start.

Except it didn’t quite turn out like that. As Jones recalls in his autobiography, early in the second half the enormous Alun Wyn Jones picked the ball out of the base of a ruck and charged at full pelt towards the young Farrell, who had foolishly stationed himself at first guard. Surely no contest. To the astonishment of Wyn Jones, however, Farrell was not merely standing his ground, but taunting him. “Come on, then!” he shouted. “F****** run at me, you c***!”

A reminder, if one were required, that from his earliest days in the game Farrell has always been one of those players who carries around with him a strange and powerful infatuation. You could call it self-belief, but in many ways, it goes even deeper than that: self-certainty, perhaps even self-inevitability. It would have been an even funnier story if Wyn Jones had subsequently bounced Farrell into next week, but he didn’t. Instead Farrell, despite giving away a sizeable weight deficit, wrapped two wiry arms around his man and stopped him dead in his tracks.

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Jones remembers being so impressed by Farrell that day that he sought out his father and England assistant coach Andy to inform him that he had a rare and special talent on his hands. Of course, in the England camp they all knew that already, but perhaps even they didn’t yet quite know how special. For only the most optimistic of observers would have cast eyes on this scrawny, skittish young kid and seen the man who would one day lead England out in a World Cup final.

On Saturday evening in Yokohama, Farrell will become the fourth Englishman to captain his team in a World Cup final. The first was Will Carling in 1991, a military man from a boarding school background with an upper-crust smirk and a penchant for the good life: almost a cartoonist’s caricature of what an England rugby captain might look like. Then came Martin Johnson in 2003, a gruff, taciturn presence who preferred to lead by epic deed than by soaring wo

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