Thursday 21 September 2017

Farrell relaxed as he turns up volume on 'mood' music

Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Andy Farrell looks relaxed as he enters the room to make the case for his defence after Saturday's poor showing at Murrayfield. If he's worried about the defensive problems the Scots exposed, he's not showing it.

Attitude, he says, was the key issue in Edinburgh. Ireland did not look like they loved to defend, they didn't bounce back into the line quickly enough and as a result life was easy for Scotland.

After the game, Vern Cotter noted that he had changed the way his side had defended at half-time and that got under the skin of Farrell. They hadn't, they'd just started playing with the requisite intensity and the rest flowed from there.

Mood

"I'm concerned about the mood at the time, at our lack of want to get back in the line and enjoy our defence," he said.

"Our mood was completely different in the first half compared to what it was in the second half and I think we let things affect us.

"We shouldn't do that, we should love defending. Every time we get an opportunity to defend we should love it and we didn't. So our mood, our appetite was affected a bit and we got it back in the second half."

The poor first-half showing has shone a light on the previously acclaimed work the ex-England assistant has been doing with Ireland. Across eight internationals - six of which were against the southern hemisphere big three - the team have conceded an average of 2.8 tries a game.

"You say three tries is too high," he said of that rate. "I don't go on stats at all, it is always cause and effect. I ain't getting away from the weekend, we got caught out twice and those tries needed to be dealt with better from us. It was (dealt with), in the second half we got the ball that we wanted because of it and those are the type of things we need to address."

Ireland missed just nine tackles on Saturday and even that more flattering number is also dismissed.

"Those are stats you would say are unbelievably good, the penalty count was in our favour etc but just because somebody makes a tackle and hangs on he gets a tick because he made a tackle; is it a soft tackle, is it fast ball, is it slow ball? You can take the rough with the smooth with stats, you can say (we conceded) three tries or you can say we were the first side in 13 games to keep the All Blacks to three tries (in November). So you can jump on stats; to me it is the cause and effect that is the priority."

He is unwilling to go into too much detail around the technical aspects of Ireland's defence, but the key thing he keeps returning to is the team's "mood".

In particular, the wide defence was a concern as Ireland were exposed out wide by the Scots, bringing back haunting memories of the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina.

Progress

"It's the hardest part of the game to defend in those wide channels and we work hard with outside backs in general," Farrell said.

"Anyone can be on the outside, backs and forwards, that they understand what type of decision-making it takes to make sure that we apply ourselves properly there.

"It's a work in progress. In the first half you would think that we hadn't done much work on it.

"Scotland's defence was narrow at times, but they still managed to stop us in the first half. You look at our second-half performance, and you could say our spacing wasn't quite right, but we still solved it.

"That's why I keep going back to appetite and mood. It ain't just about spacing and getting across the field. If you space out too much they'll run through the middle of you. There's all sorts of reasons."

Irish Independent

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