Former rugby player Aristide Barraud analyzes the strong and intuitive complicity between English players Georges Ford and Owen Farell, in the chronicle he holds for "Le Monde" throughout the competition.
"Oval Rising" I started rugby with a friend I met at primary school. We were in CE2, we warmed together in September 1999 and the first training, we were bitten. We played in the street, in the park in the middle of his city, on the platforms of the Massy-Palaiseau station and during the recess. We spent our lives together and we often forgot our notebooks but never the balloon we shared. He slept at home or at home, often in the same bed and the ball in the middle. Shaved hair, we were called " egg skulls ", as Saitama in One Punch Manbut on the ground, it is we who break the shells. I knew all his feints, his calls and his movements, we made passes without looking at each other. We chained the seasons, we won the tournaments. I made him better running for him, I became stronger when he was playing for me.
We rarely watched the games on TV. We only thought of running outside, a ball in our hands. But France-England was our favorite meeting, we liked Jonny Wilkinson and Fred Michalak. Time has passed and in recent years I have kept away from rugby. Despite that, I look closely at the England games, I waited a long time for the crunch last weekend. Maybe I am like a junkie, looking for the sensation of the first doses: of the happiness of the first victories, of the friendship between two little guys whom everything opposes. And if my youthful idols have retired, I continue to love the XV of the Rose. The Ford – Farrell pair reflects my childhood, the furious races and the passes until the overdose.
The association between Georges Ford and Owen Farrell is a fugu, tasty but potentially poisonous fish for those who rub it
Young, Georges Ford and Owen Farrell competed in the regional championships before becoming friends in 2005, when the father of Owen, then star Rugby League (rugby league), went to the XV and signed to the Saracens of London, trained by Georges's father. The two kids lived in the same street, went to the same school and became friends. They played on the vacant lot at the end of their English-style subdivision, made up of identical houses. It was on this grassy expanse of North London that a telepathic collusion began to be forged.
The Japanese call this "Ishin-Denshin" – term derived from martial arts – an unintentional and ideal communication, induced by a link so strong that it becomes visceral. A heart-to-heart dialogue, forged by the thousands of balloons exchanged, by the duties that Ford finished for Farell in order to save time and keep playing.
Arriving at the head of the England team in 2015, Eddie Jones understood the strength of such a complicity. In an ever faster rugby, place in midfield two playmakers guided by intuition becomes a fatal weapon. Two opener linked by childhood and the repetition of gestures, an entity with two brains in constant connection.
Eddie Jones set up his strategy gradually, testing all possible combinations. He accustomed Farrell to the first international center position and ended up associating the two friends for the first time at the 2018 Six Nations Tournament. Since then, both players have controlled the rhythm, alternation, and depth of the field. Their association is a fugu, tasty but potentially poisonous fish for those who rub it. The English attacks are fast and precise, the control is without fail.
The pair "Pooper" Australian
Australia, opponent of the XV of the Rose in the quarterfinals, has a break. Indeed, Eddie Jones preferred to place Ford on the substitutes' bench and start Farrell at the half-open position. The level of analysis has become so important that the best coaches use the membership variation as an additional weapon. Goal ? Keep one step ahead of the opponent.
Because in the Australian team, another well-honed pair has been raging for several years. Michael Hooper and David Pocock, a defensive entity called "Pooper" by the Anglo-Saxon press, revolutionized ground anticipation and the recovery game. Watching them counter the rucks gives an impression of warlike symbiosis. Their association is a constant danger for the opposing teams and a launching pad for the Wallabies.
In France, the closest term is called "shared collective experience". The establishment of a language and a common universe tends to create a collective trust, essential to performance. But the figures place the XV of France as bad example of the world rugby, practicing the waltz of the players. The reverse of the collective constancy of Wales.
This weekend, the quarters will provide answers and push the limits of this sport again. Me, in a Japanese bar or a fan-zone, I will look at the heroes of the stars of tomorrow. They themselves, surely far from the TVs, too busy running on a vacant lot, a bullet in their hands. And while in Japan, the rugby of the future is emerging, at the same time, everywhere on the oval planet, children communicate in Ishin–denshin.
Aristide Barraud, 30, is a former professional rugby player. Ex-international under 20 years, he has notably played in the Top 14 with the French Stadium before exiling himself in the Italian league.