On 17th March, fitness permitting, Owen Farrell will be going toe-to-toe with the mighty Irish, a powerful team made all the more powerful by his dad Andy, with his shrewd defensive mind – the master puppeteer in charge of coordinating their grunt work. His chief instruction being to stop his lad, to nullify the threat of his firstborn. Anyone who has seen the new Star Wars movies may sense a stirring in the Force, echoes of Kylo Ren facing off against his father Han Solo, but who will be unflinchingly plunging a lightsabre into their loved-one’s heart with 80 minutes on the clock? It’s in the balance.
Whatever the outcome, the ongoing wrestle between Farrell Snr and Farrell Jnr is an intriguing one. The hero of English Rugby League versus the saviour of English Rugby Union. Two sports so close in kind, but long-separated by the class system – one posh (but getting less posh by the minute), the other one definitely not. Andy, the Man of Steel in 1996 and 2004, but a relatively disappointing Union player, and Owen, top choice for England and The British Lions, the current European Player of the Year. His legacy may ultimately eclipse his fathers’, but we should probably build a bronze statue of both of them, just to be safe.
Of course, they’re not the first father/son sporting combo to grace the world stage. Here are some sons who selfishly managed to sandbag their fathers’ legacies, by being even better at sport than them:
Stuart Broad, son of Chris
Chris Broad was a combative, sulky, angry batsman who took the fight to Australia in 1986, roaring like an English Braveheart. Botham gets all the plaudits for his series-defying work in 1981, but Broad Senior smashed three centuries in consecutive Ashes Tests to clinch the tiny little urn, IN AUSTRALIA, just five years later. An astonishing feat, which has somehow become a mere footnote in his family’s potted sporting history, because his boy Stuart has won over 100 caps (to Chris’ 25), and has officially eclipsed Lord Ian Botham as the country’s second highest wicket taker of all time. Reportedly, Chris is “immensely proud, obviously” about that.
Sergio Busquets, son of Carles
A grafter between the sticks, Carles Busquets worked his way through the Barcelona system, from the youth ranks, through the C and the B team, before finding himself in the starting line-up for the Cup Winners Cup Final against Man United in 1991. His team lost that day, sunk by a brace of goals from their old team mate with the big perm, Mark Hughes. Thankfully, Carle’s son Sergio has since avenged his shame by trouncing United TWICE is big European finals. First in 2009, and latterly in 2011. “If you watch the whole game, you won’t see Busquets,” Vicente del Bosque once said of Spanish international, Sergio, “but watch Busquets, and you will see the whole game.” No one has any idea what that means, but apparently it’s a huge compliment.
Mako and Billy Vunipola, sons of Fe’ao
Tonga’s loss, and to some degree Wales’, has become England’s massive gain. Fe’ao Vunipola, a handy Polynesian hooker who played for Tonga 34 times, relocated from the South Pacific to the East Atlantic when he took his lads to live in rainy Pontypool at the end of the 1990s. There, they perfected their trade – alongside their cousin, and now bona fide Welshman, Taulupe Faletau – and are now essential cogs in Eddie Jones’ England machine. With plenty still left in the tank they have already amassed many more international caps than their dad.
Daley Blind, son of Danny
Danny was a versatile defender, with a keen eye for a pass, a popular player for Holland and Ajax. Basically, in Dutch terms, that makes you a national treasure. Unfortunately, he has since besmirched his good name with a dire run as the Holland coach before being given the unceremonious heave-ho. Daley (possibly named after the great British decathlete?), meanwhile, has carved a niche as an impressively versatile defensive player, with more international caps than his dear dad, and even a Dutch Footballer of the Year tiara from 2014 still sparkling in the family trophy cabinet. Yes, his career is slightly flailing at Man United under the conservative watch of Archbishop Mourinho, but he’s still only 27, he’ll come good again.
Ben Youngs, son of Nick
It was a crushing blow for England when Ben Youngs left the field clutching his thigh and shrieking to the heavens, now banished to the sofa for the rest of the 2018 Six Nations – presumably to sit between the broad shoulders and thick necks of his fellow England internationals Nick Youngs (his dad) and Tom Youngs (his brother). Nick, like Ben, played scrum half for Leicester and England, but to far less aplomb – featuring just six times for his country, compared to Ben’s 70-odd. The pair, however, boast a rare double, having both beaten the All Blacks – Nick in 1983 when England won 15-9, and Ben (and his brother Tom) in 2012 when they went one better with a thumping 38-21.
Josh Burt is a freelance writer, who lives in South London with his wife Hannah, and his two children Gabriel and Vivienne. Over the last 20 years, he’s written for everyone from FHM to Grazia to The Times and The Telegraph, he’s had two so-so books published, and was once the online voice of Big Brother.