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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Michael Scully

Ireland v France: Our defence is our character, insists Andy Farrell

Fabien Galthié is waxing lyrical about Ireland's world-class attack this week but defence will always come first for Andy Farrell's team.

If anyone doubts it, the evidence was there whenever the camera panned to the 48-year-old at the Principality Stadium last weekend after yet another act of defensive heroism from one of his men in green as they confined Wales to a single try on home ground.

So while the French supremo hails Ireland's "remarkable" attack that has the "signature of Leinster and Johnny Sexton" written all over it, Farrell knows that the real nuts and bolts of your team starts on the other side of the ball.

"It always has been and it always will be, it will never change," said Farrell, a teak-tough tackler as a League and Union player before becoming a highly successful defence coach with England, the Lions and then Ireland.

"You always have to pay more attention to your attacking side because there's more things that have to gel together and be in sync for it to flow.

"But your defence is your character and it wasn't perfect last week - but we found a way to keep them out and that shows a lot about our character.

"Defence always wins games, the attack is always by how much."

The head coach wants Ireland to use home advantage as a weapon, but the same goes for the defensive effort of a team that has one enforced change from Cardiff - with Dan Sheehan ruled out and Rob Herring in as hooker with fit-again Rónan Kelleher added to the bench.

"France obviously try to use their defence as a weapon - and so do we," he said.

"France are pretty good on the counter-attack and they've got flair players that can break you open when you're not quite formed defensively.

"So it's a big part of their game and the personnel that they've got to go with that suits them in that regard - but I also think we're not bad at it neither."

Warren Gatland's return brought a touch of the unknown into play for Ireland's opener. This week, it is France's lucky escape in Rome on Sunday that will give Farrell pause.

He insists it makes it easier for Les Bleus to galvanise themselves in the wake of that narrow victory.

"But having said that, there has to be a bit of honesty as well in every review," Farrell said.

Fabien Galthié and Antoine Dupont hold the Six Nations trophy at the recent championship launch. France will be hoping to defend their title (BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

"I still see the same dangers all over the park, see them being hard, aggressive at the breakdown.

"I still see them being very good as far as broken-field play is concerned, being aggressive as far as the up and in line-speed is concerned.

"Their set-piece is still pretty strong and they found a way to win.

"We know that after the first game we expect ourselves to be better, so I expect France to be at their best."

Turning the focus to Ireland, Farrell added: "We got off to a good start on paper but there's a lot of bits in our game that needs to be better. There's a realisation in the group of what those bits are for us so I expect us to be a lot better."

The loss of Sheehan means that there are now four squad members suffering from a hamstring injury.

“When you’ve four of something that’s pretty similar there’s a chance that there’s a theme there, so it’s something that we’re looking into obviously," admitted Farrell.

"But it’s full steam ahead as far as the job in hand from here on in for us.”

Farrell once said that he needed 40 players ready to step in when needed at the highest level.

'I've changed my mind, it's probably 45," he remarked. "That's way that the game is nowadays.

"The way that the athletes are, there's always going to be moving parts and that the competition gets you to those performances that you're craving as well. The more the merrier."


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