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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Michael Scully

Andy Farrell praises calm Ireland and reveals no excuse mantra in Six Nations march

Andy Farrell was confident his Ireland team would keep calm and carry on - even when nerves were frayed with a Grand Slam on the line.

The hosts were clearly over-thinking the importance of the occasion from the start as a lot of the fluidity in their play that has been in evidence since last summer in New Zealand went out the window.

Instead, Ireland got sucked into playing according to England's wishes - a kicking game that didn't suit - and, when they did try to move the ball with off-loads and tip passes, Farrell's men were hesitant, disjointed and well off their best.

They persevered, however, and as they did against France and Scotland, they powered through in the final stages to win comfortably in the end.

It was character more than anything that saw Ireland through an off-day.

“Yeah, it 100% was," Farrell said. "We tried to throw everything into the mix that we’ve learned over the last three years and it all comes out in days like that, when things aren’t going too well for you.

“I keep on saying that the opposition is always going to have a say and they were there to spoil the party 100%, and they did really well as far as that’s concerned.

“I thought we started off pretty nervy, which obviously wasn’t part of the plan.

"But we kept calm and we kept on finding a way and that just sums up where the team’s at to get there in the end with a bonus-point win.

“Yeah, we don’t panic and do you know what, it really doesn’t matter, it could come down to the last two minutes of a game and we could still be behind - we expect ourselves to be level headed and be able to play what’s in front of us for that last two minutes.

"I think we’re not far off that.”

Ireland fell 6-0 behind to the Red Rose in the opening quarter before the visitors were reeled in.

Impressively, that's as far behind as Farrell's side have been throughout the 2023 championship and the head coach agrees that it shows the level of control exhibited by his players.

“What’s very pleasing in that regard is that we’re not a side who just kicks the leather off the ball and just goes for territory the whole time," he reflected.

"We’re a side that likes to play some rugby and territory and possession is pretty important for us - and we still find a way to generate good field position and dominate large parts of games.

“And it’s nice, isn’t it, to have that blend and to put that out on the field and believe in it.

"So our game’s in good shape - but it’s nowhere near where we want it to be, so that’s a great spot to be in.”

Farrell has constantly talked about his players embracing adversity.

They managed that in such an impressive manner throughout the campaign, for instance in dealing with a number of injury set-backs, that the head coach insists he wasn't feeling under stress as the Grand Slam countdown began in earnest.

“I haven’t really been because it is what it is," he said. "I mean, what can you do when lads are injured?

"Robbie Henshaw had an operation and thought he was never going to be involved. Tadhg Furlough exactly the same.

"Jamison Gibson-Park coming back in, players dropping out of the competition very early. A load of lads not having any game time.

"There was never a murmur of an excuse. We said from day one that we wanted to win the Grand Slam and we went about it as a squad.

"And that's why I'm so pleased that all 47 players that've been involved in the campaign are here to celebrate that.

"What can you do when you know that England are going to come bouncing back and they’re going to be 30% better than they were the week before?

"What can you do when Scotland are going for a Triple Crown?

“It’s a brilliant place to be. Embrace it and see what you can get out of it, not just as a team but personally as well.

"That’s the challenge, isn’t it? And that’s why we all love the Six Nations in that regard.”

Asked for a moment in the campaign that was particularly pleasing, Farrell mentioned Johnny Sexton's final conversion against England that made it a three score game.

And he added: "Just the manner of never looking like we were under pressure...I know we were.

"But never showing the reality of that - just carrying on, I suppose - that was the most pleasing thing".

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