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‘We’ve got to get it right twice’: Owen Farrell fires up Saracens for final push
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‘We’ve got to get it right twice’: Owen Farrell fires up Saracens for final push

The clock is ticking on Owen ­Farrell’s Saracens career and the fly-half knows the hands will reach midnight if they fail to overcome Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday.

Brad Barritt, the former captain, was at training in St Albans on Tuesdayas a reminder of the days when the London club were nearly invincible. But that aura has gone as they contemplate the Premiership semi-final against Saints and the break-up of a golden generation with the Vunipola brothers also leaving for France at the end of this campaign.

Barritt got a standing ovation when he walked into the team room on a visit from his home in South Africa and Farrell can expect the same whenever he returns to the club after his summer move to Racing 92.

But for now, Farrell must face up to his squad’s moment of truth in the Midlands and Mark McCall, the ­Saracens director of rugby, explained how at times such as this Farrell lights the fire under the team.

“He leads by example on the field for sure,” McCall said. “But day to day here people listen when he speaks and there is a difference in weeks like this about him and his focus on it. Everyone can tell he is at it and on it and he makes everyone feel good. We have had two great leaders, Brad was here today – one of the great leaders of this club and we have been lucky to have those two as captains.”

Saracens’ season has been marked by massive highs, such as the 52‑7 win against Harlequins in Tottenham in March, and lows such as the 41-30 reverse to Saints a week later when the scoreboard flattered them. They lost seven out of 18 ­regular‑season games and the 20-10 defeat against Sale cost them a home playoff tie and lumbered them with a trip to the form team in the league.

But Farrell is confident his side can put in a big performance on Friday – and the Saturday after, at Twicken­ham, if it comes to that.

“We’ve been consistently inconsistent over the course of the year but there’s been a bit of a change in mindset these last couple of weeks,” the 32-year-old said. “There’s been a real hunger to get it right and we’ve only got to get it right twice now.

“The good thing from the message that was given to us after the Sale game was that we have turned it around pretty quickly a good few times this year so that is not an issue for us.

“We’ve had other years were we’ve lost seven games in a block. We’ve not had that this year. When it’s gone well, you look back and tell yourself the story that the year’s been class. It’s never normally like that. We’re getting clearer on how we want to be, and we want to test that on Friday.”

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The game on Friday will pit ­Farrell against Fin Smith, one of the con­tenders to take his No 10 England shirt on the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand, when the former ­England captain will be settling into life in Paris.

Smith, a decade younger than ­Farrell, has been the spark for ­Northampton’s attacking game but also managed them in tense situations notably the away Champions Cup win in Munster in January.

“He’s come on leaps and bounds this year,” Farrell said. “He was ­obviously a fantastic player last year, but he’s really kicked on. He’s nice and relaxed when he plays the game – but he won’t be sitting back. He wants to be at the front of everything, which is a good mix. He’s has had some big moments this year. Him and George Furbank have been key to how they attack. They always seem to be in the fight – he’s come on really well.”

Source: theguardian.com