Owen Farrell receives unfair criticism and should be afforded greater recognition according to England’s attack coach, Richard Wigglesworth, after the captain was widely booed in the stadium before steering his side into the World Cup semi-finals.
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Farrell scored 20 points on his return to fly-half in an impressive performance against Fiji on Sunday, including two crucial late kicks after the Pacific Islanders had rallied to level the scores at 24-24. He was announced as the official man of the match but beforehand, when his name was read out to the crowd, he was vociferously booed.
The 32-year-old is a player who continues to divide opinion despite becoming England’s record points scorer earlier in the competition but Wigglesworth – a former teammate of Farrell’s at Saracens – does not understand why he receives so much grief after his side booked a World Cup semi-final against South Africa this Saturday.
“We are lucky to have him,” Wigglesworth said. “As ever, the tallest trees catch the most wind, and he seems to catch a fair bit of it. [He’s] proven [himself] time and time and time again, and I don’t understand why in England we feel the need to not celebrate that, not enjoy it, just because he is not sat in front of social media or media lapping all that up.
“He is incredibly serious about his career, he is an incredibly proud Englishman, he affects any team he is in, and he was brilliant for us, as we knew he would be. That was the maddening part of any noise – we knew what was coming [from him].”
Ellis Genge launched a similarly staunch defence of Farrell and insisted that he takes motivation from “everyone wanting us to lose”.
The loosehead prop said: “You look around and we have some of the best players of their generation. Right now they are probably the villains because everyone hates on them.
“Faz, he gets a lot of grief, but you are happy to have him in the team every time. I quite like the noise and having our backs up against the wall, with everyone wanting us to lose. That probably fuels me a bit. Others are probably better off blocking it out.”
Wigglesworth was quick to praise supporters in the stadium but admitted he could see where Genge was coming from. “I heard an incredible atmosphere inside the stadium, an amazing amount of support,” he said.
“I think those comments were probably driven by the questions on Owen, or the questions on the team. The lack of good feeling towards them. The minority are always the loudest. They are who you hear. But the majority of people in the stadium, the majority of the people turning up are loving this team.”