Andy Farrell insists Ireland’s game is “nowhere near” where he would like it to be as he seeks to keep driving standards on the back of Grand Slam success.
The world’s number one team delivered on pre-tournament expectations by romping to the Guinness Six Nations title with an impressive clean sweep sealed by Saturday evening’s 29-16 win over England in Dublin.
Ireland were never more than six points behind during the championship and combined grit and guile to produce their signature free-flowing rugby amid substantial injury adversity.
Head coach Farrell was pleased with the control his squad displayed during the competition but is striving for improvement moving towards the autumn World Cup in France.
“What’s very pleasing is that we’re not a side who just kicks the leather off the ball and just goes for territory the whole time,” he said.
“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 how 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?
There’s a long way for us to go for us to be at our best which is a great signAndy Farrell
“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 welcomed setbacks in order to challenge his players and continues to champion a no-excuses mentality.
Hooker Dan Sheehan epitomised that mindset by battling back from the injury he suffered in the round-four win over Scotland to start and score two of Ireland’s four tries against England.
Centre Robbie Henshaw was also on the scoresheet in the victory over Steve Borthwick’s men, having been in danger of missing the entire campaign following wrist surgery.
Prop Tadhg Furlong and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Parks were also absent for large parts because of injuries, while Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson and Garry Ringrose were among those to become sidelined en route to the title.
“There was never a murmur of an excuse,” said Farrell. “We said from day one that we wanted to win the Grand Slam and we went about it as a squad.
“It’s never been perfect but the game is not like that, so the mental strength of our game and large parts of our game are in a good place.
“But like I said, there’s a long way for us to go for us to be at our best which is a great sign.”