Friday 9 December 2016

Andy Farrell: Benchmark performance needed for Ireland to tame the 'Boks

Ruaidhri O'Connor in Port Elizabeth

Published 24/06/2016 | 16:22

Andy Farrell
Andy Farrell

Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell has called on his side to raise the bar against South Africa tomorrow and claim a series win.

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With the series locked at 1-1 after the Springboks’ win at Ellis Park last weekend, the former England assistant believes Ireland can make history at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

The squad came through their Captain’s Run training session without any fresh injuries. Joe Schmidt’s players have been full of praise for their new defensive guru and he was lauded for their performance in the first Test victory when they played for almost an hour with 14 men after CJ Stander’s red card and another 10 with 13 when Robbie Henshaw was forced off injured.

For all that that was a positive first step, Farrell wants more in Port Elizabeth.

“I don’t think we’ve set the bar anywhere yet,” he said.

“It was an heroic performance in the first Test, down to 13 and 14 men. It was an unbelievable performance of true grit but we’ve said to the lads this week: we’re looking for a benchmark performance, to take forward and I think there’s more in us, a more complete game, and we’ll need to show that at the weekend.

“The boys ask, after every game and after every training session, what we need to improve on and there’s plenty which we need to improve on, which is great.

“You would expect, wouldn’t you, that to win a Test series in SA you need to be at your best. We can still improve and hopefully that benchmark game is coming this weekend.”

Farrell says he has been enjoying his new role after sitting out the Six Nations due to the terms of his exit from the RFU.

“It’s everything that I hoped it would be,” he said. “It’s a fantastic time to come into this job because of the games that we were going to go through within my first year.

“A Test series in South Africa, it really doesn’t get any harder than that I think we’re in a fantastic situation now at 1-1 and a chance to win a Test series 2-1 and find out and give the players the experience of the cauldron of the Test match at the weekend to see whether we can or we can’t.

“I think it’s fantastic for the players. It’s certainly fantastic for me. You find out a lot about what we need to improve on and what we’ve got and what we’re doing well. We’ve certainly seen that."

Saturday’s game is the 17th Test match of a 52 week season, but captain Rory Best believes his side have enough in the tank for one last push.

“It’s a massive Test match, it’s an opportunity to go out and win a Test series in South Africa,” he said.

“I think there were times when you got to the last game of the season and you’ve won foot on the beach and that’s definitely not the case now. You can tell the way we went about training on Tuesday and Thursday, there was a real intensity about it.

“It’s been tough and we knew all of that but look we have one big push left, one massive 80 minutes to try and do something that no other Irish team has done and very few touring teams have done - and that’s a Test series in South Africa.

“We feel confident in our ability. We know it’s going to very tough, we’ve said that before every Test so far.

“It’s going to be a massive game, it’s going to be a physical game and there’s no doubt the Springboks will have their tails up after the last quarter of the previous Test, but we can take a lot of positives from the first 50-60 minutes of the last Test and large parts of the 80 minutes of the first Test.

“So we’re going in and we feel that we have the game-plan to win it. Now, it’s up to us as players, the coaches have to largely step away now, and it’s up to us as players to step up mentally, physically and make sure that the tactics we’ve talked about all week aren’t just words, that we implement them at the game.”

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