Saturday 19 January 2019

'They're walking around like bears with sore heads' - Andy Farrell predicts response from 'angry' Ireland

Defence coach Andy Farrell speaks to the media during an Ireland rugby press conference in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Defence coach Andy Farrell speaks to the media during an Ireland rugby press conference in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Australia can expect a backlash in Saturday’s second Test in Melbourne if Andy Farrell’s assessment of the mood in the camp is anything to go by.

The tourists need to bounce back from the opening night loss in Brisbane to keep the series alive and the defence coach is happy to see that the hurt of that loss is driving things as the week goes on.

The former England assistant says keeping a lid on the players’ enthusiasm is one of the main challenges of a key week in this season.

Keith Earls continues to go through the return to play protocols having suffered a head injury in Saturday’s loss, but the rest of the squad trained in Melbourne overnight.

And Farrell described a camp eager to right some wrongs against the Wallabies next week.

"Pretty well,” he said when asked how the team have responded. “Pretty much as you'd expect a good side to take a defeat like that.

"They're pretty angry, grumbly, walking around like bears with sore heads.

"We've had a couple of meetings and they understand the reasons why, as individuals and collectives, certain things happened.

"You forge a plan and, once you have a plan in place you head forward.

"The key for the rest of the week is working out how to hold them back."

Ireland lamented their missed attacking opportunities after the game on Saturday, but Farrell sees room to improve in his own area of expertise after Australia ran in two tries.

"Decent, at times," Farrell said of the defence.

"But that's not good enough at this level in the sense that they are a very, very good attacking outfit.

"We knew that before the Test,we knew that they would be very hard to contain.

"It felt like we did that by and large, but you've got to be consistent with it. They hit you on the break very well.

"They play quick, especially at the breakdown, etc.

"We've things to work on, but by and large to keep them to a couple of tries - albeit get away with a few that were disallowed - isn't too bad because Australia are pretty used to scoring tries.

"We need to do better at the weekend, there's no doubt about that."The first of those scores came when Robbie Henshaw rushed up on Bernard Foley but couldn’t make it in time, allowing the out-half release Samu Kerevi whose break put Ireland on the back foot and they couldn’t recover.

The dual-code international wants Henshaw and his team-mates to learn from their mistaes.

“Defence is like attack, it's about decision-making,” he said.

“You back your players to make good decisions by putting them in those situations to make good decisions in the first place.

"But we were a bit too trigger-happy.

"We know that Australia like to, at times, go away from the flat attack that we've all been so used to seeing them do over the last few years.

"We've seen from time to time that, with line-speed, they'll sit back that little bit deeper and entice you to come that distance that you don't want to come and they'll pick you off on the edge.

"We felt that it was a gamble that wasn't quite on the money there.

“He's got a winger that's just sitting off a little bit and becomes disconnected. The communication, they say, was there but obviously not communicated well enough.

"I suppose the crowd noise, etc, has something to do with that.

"I thought Iain Henderson was doing pretty well on the inside and I'd back our players to make good decisions and at this level you've got to nail them 100pc.

"We were slightly off.

"Robbie is normally one of the best in the world (at that).”

“It is (great if he makes it), you applaud it, but he didn't. We didn't and they got on the edge of us.

“How do we learn from that? Probably in how we get to the space as a collective is something that we're working on.”

Israel Folau did a lot of damage to Ireland in the air and he is a unique talent, but Farrell reckons his side can improve how they deal with his threat.

"Obviously, they had a plan and it was a great plan and they backed themselves with it.

"Is it a 50-50 when the ball's in the air with him? Probably not, he's so good at it.

"But there are certain things that we can do with it, you can say that you can get pressure on the kicker and we can but there are times when they are so deep that you can't get there anyway....

"But it was the accuracy of how we got into the air sometimes, we let him dominate the space more than he should.

"He had it a little bit too much his own way.

"They position him very well and their attacking kicking game is in accordance with that. We can recognise better and make it more of a contest.

"Is it 50-50? Probably not, but we can make sure we're around for the scraps if not."

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