Sunday 25 August 2019

Farrell keeping an open mind as last chance saloon beckons

 

Defence coach Andy Farrell during an Ireland rugby press conference at Carton House in Maynooth, Kildare. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Defence coach Andy Farrell during an Ireland rugby press conference at Carton House in Maynooth, Kildare. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Andy Farrell's first Ireland team announcement came a couple of months ahead of schedule yesterday as he handed Jean Kleyn a debut on the day he qualified through residency.

The assistant coach was standing in for Joe Schmidt, who is in New Zealand due to a family bereavement, and he says the door remains open for a plethora of hopefuls for whom tomorrow's game against Italy represents a last chance to impress.

Having reduced his panel from 45 to 43 earlier this week, Schmidt is expected to trim the squad further on Monday or Tuesday before travelling to Portugal for a warm-weather camp.

He has picked an experimental line-up to face the Azzurri, with Mike Haley in line for a debut off the bench. And Farrell said that while a number of players can be confident of making the plane to Japan in a month's time, the coaches have not fully made up their minds and are open to persuasion from strong performances.

"Obviously we've got certain guys that we know and hope are going to board the plane to Japan, but it would be very dismissive of ourselves if we are locked in," he said.

"Some guys worked unbelievably hard to force themselves into the squad of 45 for training back in June and they've all applied themselves unbelievably well.

"We've got to make sure we don't shoot ourselves in the foot by not staying open-minded enough."

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