Rugby excellence: it’s in the blood

Family has played a major role in Owen Farrell’s life and career. That’s not just his blood relations: team-mates and fans have also been a family to him, creating an environment for excellence. And with the fly-half’s own recent move into fatherhood, new challenges and responsibilities are adding fresh dimensions to the title ‘family man’.

Born into a rugby-mad family, England captain Owen Farrell has not been short of role models. His father, Andy, made 370 appearances for Wigan Warriors and was an international for both the Great Britain rugby league and the England rugby union teams. His uncle, Sean O’Loughlin, has played Rugby League for Wigan since 2002, and has racked up almost 450 club appearances – plus 36 international caps for Great Britain and England.

Together, the three of them have collected more than 44 club and international titles. It’s telling that in rugby union, Saracens hasn’t had a team without a Farrell for more than 14 years; Wigan Warriors has had a family member playing for them since 1991. (Even his maternal grandfather, Keiron O’Loughlin, played professional rugby league for 20 years; his own stint at Wigan ran from 1970 to 1979.)

And while Owen’s achievements demonstrate his personal commitment to excellence, he admits his family’s impact has been key for his career. “My dad’s influence has been constant, always has been, always will be,” he says.

Bonds Beyond Sport

Owen’s respect for, and connection with, his father is as true and strong as his place kicking. “We both love the game,” Owen explains. “But it’s not just the rugby stuff, it’s the father/son stuff as well – which a lot of people experience.”

Rugby excellence is part of the Farrells’ DNA and they both share a respect for competition and also the ability of a world-class athlete to adjust their mind-set for the greater goal – which in this case, delivering peak performance for his family of team-mates and fans.

The Next Generation

Farrell will now be passing on those values and mind-set to his own son, Tommy, who was born in March. So has the new arrival made him more aware of his own approach to life? And what impact has fatherhood had on his mind-set and perspective?

“Since my son came along I have spent a lot more time at home with the family and it’s worked out really well,” says Owen. “I’ve found being at home with him unbelievably engaging – it’s very different but in a brilliant way.”

One thing’s for sure: the Farrell way is to combine these strong family bonds with a fiercely competitive approach. Speaking to the Irish Times after his coaching appointment, Andy Farrell said of young Owen: “As a kid I never let him beat me at anything, but since he’s turned 19 he’s beaten me at everything so it’s about time I started getting my own back.”

It’s still far too early to make any predictions for Tommy’s sporting future, even with the obvious genetic inheritance. But he can only benefit from both father and grandfather’s approach to togetherness, whether that’s as a family or as a team.

Honesty Is The Best Policy

Like a family, successful teams are tight-knit and naturally share similar characteristics. They have to strive for the same collective goal and create an environment where individual excellence can be deployed towards that objective. “The challenge is keeping partnerships together and keeping a team pulling in the same direction,” says Owen. “I feel, you do this by not thinking you know it all, not getting too comfortable – especially if the team has had success in the past.”

That means, he adds, that honesty and transparency are key ingredients for a successful team: “I find that it gets you places, and it can get you there fast. Another important one, in my opinion, would be respect. Again, it comes back to being open-minded enough to listen to someone’s opinion and not think that you know it all as an individual, being able to take what you can from it. I would say that comes down to respecting each other.”

That’s echoed by former England coach Stuart Lancaster, who said of Owen’s excellent work ethic: “He has great integrity as a person and he’s a strong leader and competitor. He’s not afraid to listen to other people to get better and that’s what drives him.”

“The core is so strong that there’s room for people to come and go and be able to fit in to what we’re already doing.” ~ Owen Farrell, England Rugby Captain

Successful Succession

Growing and nurturing a team and preparing the next generation of players is a critical part of being a leader on and off the field. And, in playing terms, that also entails a passing of the baton between generations:

“At Saracens, the core of the group has been together for a long time now in rugby terms,” says Owen. “I’d say it would be coming up to 10 years. But that core is so strong that there’s room for people to come and go and be able to fit in to what we’re already doing.”

The will and determination of the collective more often than not outperforms the individual – whether that’s in a family or a team. And it’s clear from looking at the Farrell dynasty that while blood ties bind a family close, it’s mind-set, values and togetherness that create the environment for long-lasting success.

Irwin Mitchell are giving you the chance to win a signed England shirt

England Rugby’s official legal partner, Irwin Mitchell, are giving a lucky fan the chance to win a signed shirt to kick off their partnership.

  1. The Promoter of the competition is Irwin Mitchell Solicitors. The competition is open to individuals resident in the UK. Employees and their families of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, their associated companies, advertising and promotional agencies are not eligible for entry.
  2. Employees and their families of England Rugby are not eligible for entry.
  3. Entrants must be over 18 and only one entry is permitted per person.
  4. Entry to the competition is made by a person sharing in a few words their most memorable rugby moment. Entries can only be made by writing a rugby memory on Irwin Mitchell’s competition posts on Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Names of the people who share their rugby memory will be collated and the winner will be chosen from those entrants at random.
  6. Any entries containing offensive or inappropriate content will be removed from Irwin Mitchell social media channels where possible, and will not be included in the random draw.
  7. Entrants must be willing to submit their contact details including phone number and postal address if necessary, if they are successful.
  8. Entries to the competition must be made no later than midday on 12 October 2019. Any entries submitted after this time will not be included.
  9. The prize is a signed England rugby shirt.
  10. The winner will be notified by @IrwinMitchell on Twitter or Facebook during week commencing 14 October 2019.
  11. Losing entries will not receive a notification via Twitter, Facebook or by any other means
  12. The winner will receive their prize at their agreed postal address.
  13. No cash alternative to prizes is available and prizes are non-transferable.
  14. If the promoter receives no response from the prize winner within 14 days, the prize will be forfeited.
  15. By entering this promotion all participants will be deemed to have accepted and be bound by these terms and conditions.
  16. Promoter: Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, Riverside East, 2 Millsands, Sheffield S3 8DT. 17. Irwin Mitchell respects your privacy and will not pass on your personal data to any third party.

If you would like to find out more information, please visit:

Irwin Mitchell announce partnership with England Rugby

We are proud to be England Rugby’s official legal partner and play our part in helping to grow the game across the country.

England Rugby’s good work doesn’t stop with the men’s and women’s senior teams we see competing around the world. The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is the national governing body for grassroots and elite rugby in England with over a thousand community clubs nationwide.

We also support UK sports with our Don’t Quit, Do It campaign, and we’re ranked number one for sports law in the independent Legal 500 rankings.

Our solicitors even helped the Rugby Players Association develop concussion guidelines to help protect players from serious injury.

That’s why we think Irwin Mitchell and England Rugby is a great fit.

A successful rugby team is full of highly skilled specialists, united by a single purpose. It’s the same for us – a wide range of legal experts working together to help you through all life’s ups and downs.

In our role as official legal partner, we’re thrilled to be helping the RFU and its community clubs with their own legal issues. It’s also great to see our partnership help young players involved in rugby.

Supporting Youth Rugby

We know that the shift to adult rugby can be tricky for young players, particularly with coping with the increased demands of modern life. Finding the balance between studying and training isn’t easy. Neither is dealing with the unique and growing pressures on young people in the modern world.

So we’re working with England Rugby to help young players stay involved with the sport for longer and to help more people benefit from the great values that this unique sport teaches. We hope that by helping these players make the next step, the sport can continue to grow in years to come.

Our programme:

  • Will support over 35,000 14-18 year old players, with mentors across 750 clubs
  • Aims to keep more youngsters interested in rugby, enhancing the retention of youth players
  • Aids the transition for youth players through to adult rugby

“We are delighted to partner with Irwin Mitchell and deliver this exciting, new mentoring programme,” said Steve Grainger, Rugby Development Director at the RFU. “Any opportunity we have to keep young people engaged in the game for longer is crucial. Having this community of mentors across the country will be invaluable for the players and will only help to grow the game further.”

Our Other Sports Initiatives

Wooden Spoon

We’re the official headline sponsor for Wooden Spoon, a children’s rugby charity based in Hampshire.

The charity works to change the lives of disadvantaged children and young people with disabilities, through organising various rugby projects throughout the year. We work closely with the charity to support their growth and sponsor their events.

Don’t Quit, Do It

Don’t Quit, Do It is our ongoing campaign to help disabled people enjoy sport. We’ve seen first-hand how powerful sport can be during recovery from a serious injury.

Our partnership with Paralympic gold medallist Hannah Cockroft MBE and wheelchair tennis superstar Alfie Hewitt has helped us raise the profile of disability sport in the UK.

The campaign includes a variety of sports, including wheelchair rugby – another reason we’re excited to work with England Rugby.

Old Mutual plans to grow Financial Adviser School

Old Mutual Wealth intends to scale up its Financial Adviser School (FAS) to help close the advice gap.

Richard Freeman, chief distribution officer at Old Mutual Wealth, who presented eight graduates with their graduation certificates at a ceremony explained he would like to see hundreds of students coming through the school eventually.

He added the school, which was originally set up by Sesame Bankhall, should appeal to people from “right across the board” as it recruited more students, including those who had left the armed services and others from outside the financial services industry.

The Financial Adviser School received 319 enquiries and 90 applications by the end of the first quarter of 2017, and currently has 37 students, the average age of which is 27.

Mr Freeman said: “I think at the moment it is a tiny part [of closing the advice gap] but we can scale this up.”

Darren Smith, head of the Financial Adviser School, said attracting more women and introducing financial services to them as a career option was a key focus for him.

According to Old Mutual Wealth, 29 per cent of the Financial Adviser School students are women.

Eleanor Armson was among the eight who graduated earlier this week and one of two female graduates.

When asked why she chose to study at the school, she said she was not just looking for a job when she applied but a career in financial advice.

“We knew where we were going, and there was a clear path. That is kind of what appealed to me about it,” she added.

Ms Armson, who studied for a degree in English and Film before going on to work in recruitment for a while, also acknowledged the school’s focus on attracting more women into the industry.

“I think it’s a great industry for women and it’s a great opportunity to get into finance as well,” she suggested.

“I think it’s one of those industries that is really suited to women as well because it plays to their strengths.”

Having completed the course, Ms Armson said she is going to be working for Old Mutual Wealth Private Client Advisers, which is a sponsor of the school.

Mr Smith said: “The great thing about that is we have a friendly sponsor who we continue to get feedback from on how we adapt the programme.”

From May 2017, the course offered by the school will run in line with the government’s apprenticeship model, which will see the course extended from 47 to 58 weeks.

Mr Freeman believed the apprenticeship model was a “great initiative” from government.

He said the school could also expand by offering a chartered course and a paraplanner course.

“So people can come in at different levels, different costs, different courses,” he added. “We’re not just teaching financial advice. I think that’s probably next year.”

Old Mutual Wealth-backed network Intrinsic completed the acquisition of Sesame’s Financial Adviser School in February 2016.

Intrinsic reached a provisional agreement in late 2015 to acquire the school, which was founded by Sesame Bankhall Group in 2011, after the latter opted to wind down the training academy as part of a strategic review.

It was also announced this week Cara Gilbert had become the youngest person in the country to complete the diploma in financial planning from the Personal Finance Society.

Ms Gilbert, who is 19 years old, completed the qualification while working full-time at Standard Life’s Edinburgh office for the past two years.

She said: “I knew that I wanted to work in the financial sector when I was at school. I enjoyed maths, business management and accounting subjects.”

For more information about Old Mutual Wealth, please visit

Why do rugby players make such good business people?

Former New Zealand All Black Sean Fitzpatrick and ex-England rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward explain why rugby and business go so well together.

George Gregan, Australia’s talismanic former scrum half, is one of the country’s most successful rugby union players. His international career spanned 13 years and saw him win 139 caps. Only two people have represented their countries more in the history of rugby – New Zealand’s Richie McCaw and Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll.

Yet just five years into his international career and at the peak of his powers – the same year, in fact, that Australia won the Rugby World Cup – Gregan started his own business: GG’s Espresso shop, based in Sydney’s bustling business district.

To a football fan this might sound like an odd move, a bit like David Beckham drawing up a business plan for a greasy spoon café. But there lies, in a nutshell, one of the major differences between a game in which you throw the ball and one in which you kick it.

Rugby union went professional in 1995, and although the amount of money pumped into the sport has steadily increased, players’ wages are still small compared to that of football.

All-Black Dan Carter will become rugby’s highest-paid player after the World Cup, yet even on his new wages it would take him more than 20 years to amass the annual salary of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo also enjoys bonuses and endorsements that take his earnings beyond £50 million a year – exactly 100 times more than the fourth highest-paid rugby player, Sam Burgess.

Rugby’s historical frugality is a major reason for its close and practical ties to business, says Sean Fitzpatrick, who recently spoke at Grant Thornton’s Inspiring Business event, part of a series dedicated to stimulating ideas among business audiences.