sport news MARTIN SAMUEL: Owen Farrell's a great England captain but his public persona ...

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As Jamie George spoke, it became clear to those in the room that we had never actually met the man who was the subject of this conversation.

We had sat and talked with him, yes. We had been in his orbit for years now. We had asked him thousands of questions and listened earnestly as he answered. But we didn't know him. Not the real him. Not the man his players saw: the man who will lead England into a ferocious encounter with South Africa on Saturday.

Owen Farrell is a mystery to those outside this England camp; to those beyond its inner sanctum. He performed his public duties, as always, when England's team for the World Cup final was announced on Thursday and left his audience, as always, none the wiser about him, about the art of leadership, about the magic that quite clearly only happens behind closed doors.

On Thursday, Owen Farrell left his audience none the wiser about him or the art of leadership

On Thursday, Owen Farrell left his audience none the wiser about him or the art of leadership

He talked in the blandest cliches, eschewed insight, his body language closed, his eyes wide, alert and intense, yet never making a connection. If Eddie Jones fills the rooms with his personality, Farrell clears it. Yet that perception: the captain who leads purely by example on the field, is plainly wrong.

George, a Saracens team-mate and friend, challenged it the moment he announced how much he was looking forward to Friday evening's gathering in the players' room. It used to be called the team meeting, he said, but it was now the captain's meeting because Farrell had made it his own.

He began to paint a vivid picture. As Farrell spoke, you could hear a pin drop, apparently. He would have the room mesmerised with his wisdom, his insight, the quiet power of his words. He would be calm, making connections on an emotional level. He could deliver tough messages, too, but without shouting.

'If he asks for more, we give him more,' said George. It was a portrait of a true leader; and no one we had ever known.

Martin Johnson said that he found his public role as England captain more draining than any match. One imagines that for Farrell it is the same. The room, after all, is full of people whose criticism in the wake of the 2015 World Cup cost his father, Andy, his coaching job with England.

It was Jones who actually sacked Andy Farrell, but the only reason Jones was appointed was because the previous regime was deemed to have failed disastrously. So there is history. Also, Farrell has been around rugby since he could hold a ball and talks like a man who has been trained to fulfil an obligation, and no more.

All academies provide media coaching these days, and media coaching produces new levels of colourlessness. 

'The most important day was today, just as the most important day last week was the day on the day,' George Kruis told reporters after England reached this World Cup final. 'The most important day will be tomorrow for us and then the next day and the next day. We will take it day by day.' Kruis has been at Saracens since leaving school.

Farrell has guided England to the World Cup final following their fine victory over New Zealand

Farrell has guided England to the World Cup final following their fine victory over New Zealand

And it is not new that captains are different behind closed doors. Alan Shearer, one imagines, kept tales of creosoting fences for his autobiography, not his team talks. Michael Atherton was not as surly with his team-mates as he invariably was when the cameras rolled. Chris Robshaw's 43 captaincy appearances could never be confused with the final season of Breaking Bad. Even by these standards, mind, Farrell is something else. Yet what do we know?

Nothing. That much is obvious now. For what George's oration made clear is that Farrell is a different character in the company of his peers; of men who have walked in his shoes, have followed him into battle, who are familiar with his world.

Around them, he can be himself. With them he is insightful and intelligent; a reader of minds and situations. He can command the room, mould it, channel its energy. He is so much more than the stereotypical leader by example. This Farrell, the side of him that stays carefully hidden, is what Jones sees, is what he saw when he gave him the role. It wasn't about a presence on the field, although he certainly has that. It wasn't about putting his body on the line or being centred enough to kick for the posts, even under the most intense pressure. There was more. He was deeper than that.

Captains are unique figures. Who hasn't considered some of John Terry's misdemeanours and wondered how he could ever unite or fire a dressing room? Yet he did, to the extent that when Fabio Capello took the England armband away from him, he quickly restored it, having discovered that nobody in his squad had anywhere near Terry's leadership skills.

Millions of words have been written about captains, too, but most amount to little below a surface appreciation of bawlers and shouters. Farrell was like that in his younger days, George recalled. Yet what he has grown to be is richer and more complex. And if he does not wish to shine light on that magic, he would not be the first.

Jack Lambert was middle line-backer for the in an era when they won four Super Bowls in six years — 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979. He had a cold, uncompromising relationship with the media and has barely made public appearances since retiring in 1984. Lambert was a country boy from Mantua, Ohio, and considered undersized and underpowered for his position. He is, however, widely acknowledged to be one of NFL's greatest captains.

At Pittsburgh, he developed a ritual of meeting his team-mates in the sauna for a post-game discussion, away from coaches and microphones. Those who sweated through those meetings recall that while accountability was demanded and criticism frank, Lambert listened as much as he spoke, and was as quick to praise as find fault. He was also first into the steam, and the last to leave.

Farrell and head coach Eddie Jones are gearing up for Saturday's final against South Africa

Farrell and head coach Eddie Jones are gearing up for Saturday's final against South Africa

Lambert wasn't known for long motivational speeches but for sharp critiques in the moment. If the sauna wasn't available he would sit in the locker room and hold the meetings there until long after midnight. He was also adept at what might be termed non-verbal

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