'Every time we get an opportunity to defend, we should love it and we didn't': Farrell on Ireland's defensive lapses
Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell rates Saturday’s defeat to Scotland alongside the second Test collapse against South Africa as the most disappointing game he’s been involved in since joining Joe Schmidt’s staff.
The former England international wasn’t willing to go into systematic details as to why his side conceded three first-half tries and gave themselves a mountain to climb at Murrayfield but he believes the team’s “mood” was off.
Farrell is highly rated by current and former players, but his side have been conceding an average of 2.8 tries a game in the eight matches he has taken charge of.
He prizes attitude in defence highly and reckons Ireland did not show the correct levels of enthusiasm when attempting to repel Vern Cotter’s side in their 27-22 opening day loss.
“We’ll work on the reasons why,” he said of the sluggish start.
“I'm more concerned about the mood at the time, of our lack of want to get back in the line and enjoy our defence.
“Our mood was completely different in the first half compared to what it was in the second-half and I think we let things a little bit affect us and we shouldn't do that defensively, we should love defending.
“Every single time we get an opportunity to defend, we should love it and we didn't. So our mood was affected, our appetite was affected a little bit and we got it back in the second half.
“I think the upsetting thing for myself after the game was that Vern Cotter came up to me - and Scotland, all credit to them, I thought they played really well, especially in the first half - but he said, 'Jeez, you changed your defence in the second half, didn't you?'.
“And we didn't. We didn't. So now you can understand why I'm talking about the mood.
“There's all sorts of reasons, that's what I'm saying, but there's no excuse.
“Whatever the reason, the knock-on effect of whatever's gone on a minute before, 30 seconds before, five seconds before, we have an opportunity to love defending and go after them and get the ball back, and we didn't.
“In the second half we got the results for it, we got the ball back on plenty of occasions because of the pressure that we applied.
“But at this level, against a good Scottish side, and all credit to them, you don't get away with it.
“Or you nearly get away with it, you think you've nearly got away with it and all of a sudden in the last 10 minutes, you haven't.”
Farrell’s defensive review takes place today before he leads training at Carton House.
He said the players have offered reasons for their false start, but added that everyone within the set-up is examining their own role.
“We’ll keep that in-house. There's all sorts of reasons. You look at yourself first. There's all sorts of reasons, we'll look at ourselves as coaches,” he said.
“There's preparation, we'll look at one-another as leaders and sometimes you can look for too much of an excuse and we don't want to get into that. We'll look at ourselves as coaches."
Despite his disappointment at Saturday’s opening day malfunction, Farrell expects Ireland to correct what went wrong beginning with this weekend’s round two clash with Italy in Rome.
“Yeah. We'll fix it,” he said.
“The disappointing thing with this game is that you're disappointed with the outcome of the first-half, but let's not forget that it was fantastic the way that they came back against a confident side that was bullish at half-time like Scotland and we came back and almost blew the game out of the water for a good 20-25 minutes.
“To lose it twice isn't great to take, but the players are an honest bunch. They want to get better, they want to improve and they want to win the competition for Ireland.
“There's no doubt that come training they'll be wanting to get back on the horse and put it right.
“Not just yet. Well, look, we need to enjoy our defence this weekend against Italy, we need to get the ball back because if we don't, the Italians are going to be hard work for us.
“They showed that against Wales in the first half. It's a tough old match over there and we've seen plenty of games where teams have come unstuck so you have to be at your best in this championship against absolutely everyone.
“We know what the Italians can do, we know what they've done against South Africa and we know that they believe that if they get a sniff... so we've got to apply ourselves on the Italians and we need to get that appetite consistently higher this weekend.”