Eddie Jones knew when seeing a 16-year-old Owen Farrell dumped on his backside by All Blacks legend Sonny Bill Williams that the England centre would become a world great.
He may not have had a storming game in Saturday’s 37-21 win over Australia, but it did not stop his head coach reinforcing his belief that the 25-year-old Saracens star is the “standard-bearer” of this burgeoning side.
Jones said: “Owen’s the spirit of the team. An absolute competitor.
“I actually signed him at Saracens so knew he had lots of potential and a massive competitive side, like his dad (Andy).
“He played a trial against Toulon when he was only 16 years and nine months or something and Sonny Bill Williams debuted for Toulon.
“Owen got the ball, Sonny Bill whacked him and stood up over the top of him.
“But Owen just bounced back up onto his feet and continued like nothing had happened. You could tell he was going to be a good player.
“He hasn’t been at his best this autumn and is still recovering from his back injury.
“I’d say he’s been 80 per cent fit so to win these four Tests when your 12 is nowhere near his best is a pretty good effort. He’s the standard-bearer.”
Jones, of course, decided to get rid of Farrell’s father – England’s defence coach – when he took over last December.
Asked if he had spoken to Owen about that, the Australian admitted: “We’ve had a couple of fleeting conversations, but he understands.
“I’m sure his dad understands it now – it was difficult at the time – and I’m so pleased that he’s now doing well (with Ireland).”
Jones also saved praise for winger Marland Yarde, who scored a try on his latest recall to the team for the suspended Elliot Daly.
“He’s the guy I got most satisfaction out of playing well against Australia,” he said.
“I remember going to a Harlequins game about eight months ago, sitting in the crowd and the Quins supporters were going, ‘He’s crap. This guy’s hopeless. I don’t know why they play him all the time’.
“But he’s really worked hard at his game and had a storming one (on Saturday).”