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Andy Farrell scathing of 'underwhelming' Ireland display

By PA
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell during the Autumn International match between Ireland and Fiji at Aviva Stadium on November 12, 2022 in Dublin, Dublin. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell lamented a lack of ruthlessness and a string of errors following a “pretty underwhelming” 35-17 victory over undisciplined Fiji.

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The much-changed Irish retained their status as rugby’s top-ranked nation but were far below their free-flowing best against depleted opposition in a disjointed Dublin display.

Fiji were a man down for most of a stop-start second half at the Aviva Stadium following the dismissal of flanker Albert Tuisue, while Manasa Saulo and Api Ratuniyarawa each spent spells in the sin bin.

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Nick Timoney’s two tries, plus scores from Robert Baloucoune, Mack Hansen and Cian Healy, helped the Irish back up last weekend’s win over world champions South Africa.

Yet Farrell, who selected Tadhg Furlong as captain and gave debuts to prop Jeremy Loughman and replacements Jack Crowley and Cian Prendergast, was far from pleased with the performance, having made nine personnel changes to the starting XV which toppled the Springboks.

“Any Test match win should be celebrated, especially when you’ve got three lads making their debuts and Tadhg captaining the side for the first time,” said Farrell.

“But as far as the performance is concerned, pretty underwhelming. When you look back and analyse a performance like that, you will get plenty of learnings out of it.

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“But for Fiji being down to 13 men, with a red card and a couple of yellow cards and the penalty count being 14-10 in our favour, we should have been a lot more clinical than we were and I think that’s the moral of the story.

“We got into their 22 time and time again – and, yes because of illegalities and the stop-start nature, we lost our flow. But we weren’t clinical enough by any stretch of the imagination.

“Our start wasn’t the best and fast forward to the last play of the game, us kicking the ball out against 14 men with a scrum ready to play when the game’s already won probably sums the game up.”

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Free-running Fiji claimed arguably the best two tries of the afternoon, going ahead through Kalaveti Ravouvou’s fine fourth-minute opener, before Simione Kuruvoli claimed an outstanding consolation.

But their display was undermined by repeated infringements.

Gloucester flanker Tuisue was sent off four minutes into the second half after ploughing his shoulder into the head of Carbery, before Ratuniyarawa became the second visiting player to receive a yellow card just five minutes later, following Saulo’s temporary exit in the first half.

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In addition to Ireland losing Carbery, who nailed three conversions, and full-back Jimmy O’Brien to head injury assessments, Robbie Henshaw limped off inside five minutes following a recurrence of the hamstring injury which kept him out against the Springboks.

“He doesn’t feel like anything was too serious,” said Farrell, who will have Bundee Aki back from suspension for next week’s autumn finale against Australia, said of Henshaw.

“He (Henshaw) felt like he came off in time to make sure that he’s not done any more damage. We will just see how it is tomorrow.

“Joey and Jimmy will obviously go through the protocols but they seem fine in themselves in the dressing room.”

Fiji head coach Vern Cotter questioned the decision to dismiss Tuisue and called for consistency in the laws of the game.

He said: “Was there foul play? I don’t know but there’s a meeting after these games about the state of the game and people in rugby need to sit down and talk about it and what’s best.

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“At the moment it’s tough, yeah.”

The New Zealander, who saw his side lose 28-12 to Scotland last weekend, continued: “It could have been a very bad day for us.

“Being down to 13 in international rugby is tough, especially when you’re playing the top team in the world.

“We would have liked to have done a lot better, really we’re disappointed with the score, we’ve got high expectations and high standards.”

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