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Rugby | International Rugby

Owen Farrell © Action Images

Carter's shirt enough of a prize for Farrell



Even if England's Owen Farrell denies Dan Carter the International Rugby Board player of the year award on Monday, it's unlikely to top the joy the 21-year-old felt in receiving the New Zealand great's shirt.

The two flyhalves swapped jerseys after England's astounding 38-21 win over the All Blacks at Twickenham on Saturday ended the world champions' 20-match unbeaten run.

Prior to the match, Farrell had been the shock choice among a four-man list of nominees including Carter, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and France outside-half Frederic Michalak for the IRB honour, which will be presented in London on Monday during the pool draw for the 2015 World Cup in England.

His inclusion prompted a withering response from former All Blacks prop Richard Loe, who wrote in the New Zealand Herald: "What he is doing on this list is way beyond me."

Indeed Farrell only started against New Zealand because first choice No 10 Toby Flood – the man he lost his place to during England's tour of South Africa in June – was injured.

Yet it was Farrell, not Carter, who played like the world record points scorer, fearlessly nailing four penalties and a drop-goal to give England a remarkable 15-0 lead early in the second half.

Carter, by contrast, had a rare off-day with the 30-year-old missing two first-half penalties he would normally have expected to goal and proved unusually fallible in defence too, with Manu Tuilagi brushing him aside en route to creating a try for Chris Ashton.

That was the second of three tries England scored – the first was a maiden test score for South Africa-born Brad Barritt and the third by his centre partner Tuilagi – that saw the hosts quell a New Zealand recovery which had come via a quickfire try double from Julian Savea and Kieran Read.

Farrell, who pulled the strings astutely in open play as well as kicking 17 points in all on Saturday, said no one had been more surprised by his inclusion on the IRB shortlist.

Yet, if only for this one match, he had the edge on Carter.

"There is no bigger admirer of him than me," Farrell said of the New Zealand stand-off. "I have watched him very closely," Farrell said.

"We had a little chat after the game and swapped shirts.

"I was massively shocked to be on the (IRB) list. I think I showed bits of what I can do. I can always get better."

Reflecting on the victory, which followed narrow defeats by Australia and South Africa, Farrell said: "The belief has always been there. This win just solidifies that. We know that when we bring our game we can beat anybody.

"I know on the outside people didn't think that. But the stuff that has been said on the outside has only made us tighter as a group," added Farrell.

"There is a lot of fight in this team, there is a champions' attitude and it showed out there."

When New Zealand closed to within a point at 15-14 behind, many in the Twickenham crowd – who'd done their best to minimise the impact of the haka with a rousing rendition of the England fans' anthem, 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot', as the All Blacks performed their traditional pre-match challenge – could have been forgiven for thinking 'here we go again'.

Yet far from retreating into their shells, England hit back with a three tries in a mere eight minutes to end 2012 on a huge high.

"Credit to them for fighting back but we always had belief in what we were doing and we never gave up and that showed in the way we played," Farrell said.

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