Thursday 19 September 2019

'You can have all the excuses in the world but it is not acceptable' - English misery helps Farrell aid Irish cause

Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell
Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell
Sour taste: Seeing his defensive system ripped to shreds by his son Owen’s England team was difficult for Andy Farrell to digest. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Whenever any of the Ireland players are asked about Andy Farrell and what he brings, the word 'presence' is invariably mentioned.

Even with something as mundane as reading out the Ireland team in public, Farrell adds his own quirks with little bits of information about different players as he rattles through the list.

Yesterday was Farrell's second time of this pre-season to step in and take over the role normally filled by Joe Schmidt, who addressed the media earlier this week.

Come next year's Six Nations, it will be second nature to the incoming Ireland head coach, so any time you get to pick the brain of one of the most important cogs in the wheel, it is worthwhile.

Behind the scenes, Schmidt regularly does so too, and it would be fascinating to know how much the pair have spoken about each of their previous World Cup experiences.

Expected

This time four years ago, so much was expected of England who were embarking on a home World Cup that was supposed to culminate in the Twickenham final that the natives were crying out for.

It didn't work out that way, however, as the English chariot crashed and burned in spectacular fashion.

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Naturally, it doesn't bring back very happy memories for Farrell, who was out of a job following the disastrous campaign, before he rocked up on these shores and re-established his reputation as one of the world's leading defence coaches.

The 2015 World Cup may seem like a lifetime ago now, but drawing on that painful experience is something Farrell knows he can now use to his advantage.

"Well, hopefully my experience, through the good and the bad and my knowledge and the expertise in the job that I have to do - surely if I do that to the best of my ability, it will be good enough," he suggests.

"It's dealing with the moments and that's what I said, it's a work-on that we're trying to address in the first three matches. It's dealing with moments.

"The big crunch match from the last World Cup was the Welsh game and it was a do-or-die game and we didn't deal with big moments at the right time. But we feel that we've got the right people in place to be able to deal with that.

"All our focus the whole way through pre-season, three months of hard graft is about Scotland, and we make no bones about that. That has been our focus all the way through. It's a massive match.

"Why? Because it's our most important match. It's the start of the World Cup and yet it will have a big say in our group."

Seeing his defensive system ripped to shreds by his son and his team-mates last month left a sour taste.

But ask Farrell what that was like as an Englishman, and the look that follows is one that the Ireland players probably get when they miss a tackle.

"It is nothing to do with being an English man," he insists.

"It is being a defensive coach at that and being on the end of a scoreline like that. You can have all the excuses in the world but it is not acceptable."

Tomorrow's clash against Wales will provide Farrell and his defence a chance to right some of the wrongs from Twickenham, but he is very much focused on the bigger picture and that is the World Cup.

Demons

Every coach and player who boards the flight to Japan next week will have different motivating factors, and for Farrell, the next couple of months are a chance for him to help banish the demons of four years ago.

"Criticism is something that people have a right to their own opinion but the criticism within the group is even stronger," he insists.

"We think it's unbelievably positive to be honest with each other, and I've never seen a more honest environment.

"It's open and people are able to say what they think, and we've put a lot right in the last couple of weeks and hopefully we'll see that in our performance on Saturday.

"A bit of honesty, honest positive feedback along the way as well, brings us on to the same page.

"There was a few things we were off the page with in that game against England. We put a few of those right in the game last week but is that the performance that we are after?

"No, we are after an improved performance on last week as well and I am sure we will get that.

"Those type of bits that we've been renowned for in the past haven't been quite as cohesive in the last three games but having said that, it's the warm-up games you know?

"This is a proper Test match. Why? Because Wales are coming full bore and I'm sure that they'll want to get on the plane with a lot of confidence and we're exactly the same."

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