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'Let's return to reality - Ireland must exercise caution'

Irish expectation soars as Andy Farrell's team sweeps all in its path, but cool heads are needed if they are to heed mistakes of the past

'He's gutted, Bundee. He is good mates with Billy as well'

By Liam Heagney
Bundee Aki walks off after his latest red card /Getty

Andy Farrell has claimed he will need to review the video footage further before definitively having an opinion on whether referee Mathieu Raynal was correct in his decision to red card Bundee Aki in the 64th minute of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations win by Ireland over England in Dublin.


Red-carded at the World Cup for Ireland against Samoa 17 months previously for a high tackle, Aki found himself in a similar sort of bother when he tackled Billy Vunipola in the second half at Aviva Stadium.

Ireland were comfortably leading 26-6 when they suffered their second red card of this Six Nations campaign, Peter O’Mahony having been red-carded and banned for three weeks for his elbow to the head of Tomas Francis in the round one loss to Wales.

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Former Ireland and Lions back-rower Stephen Ferris guests the latest RugbyPass All Access
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Former Ireland and Lions back-rower Stephen Ferris guests the latest RugbyPass All Access

Despite ‘losing’ the closing 16 minutes of play by 12-6, with England grabbing a pair of consolation tries, Ireland comfortably held on to their lead without having Aki in the midfield.

Asked for his take on the red card decision, Farrell said: “It’s a tough one. I have just been speaking with the referee who was asking my thoughts and obviously I will analyze it properly to have a good look at it.

“It’s tough, isn’t it? The rules are the rules but at the same time, it is very tough. I’ll look at it again but Billy seemed to be on a downward motion certainly with his head, but if there is any contact they are stringent with that at this moment of time.


“He’s gutted, Bundee. He is good mates with Billy as well. He is in the tunnel making sure they are still friends which they definitely are.”

England arrived into the 2021 Six Nations with their coach Eddie Jones claiming he wanted 20 of his players chosen by Warren Gatland for the upcoming Lions series versus South Africa. That bloated number will now be revised downwards with Ireland’s potential representation likely to enjoy a generous spike.

“100 per cent,” beamed Farrell. “Warren came in during the week and watched our training session. It was a great tonic for us. There were a lot of good individual performances at the start of the competition and some lads have just carried that on. Some lads are dead certain to get on the plane and I have no doubt there will be one or two more headaches after this game.”

Under pressure last month following the worst start to a championship by Ireland since 1998, Farrell rebounded with three wins on the bounce to put them in second place before next Friday’s final fixture featuring France versus Scotland.


It has left the coach with a pep in his step that was difficult to foresee following the early-round losses to Wales and France. “To win any last game in the tournament is always pleasing because it is a long time between drinks until the next one.

“To finish off with a W is pleasing but I’m just delighted for the lads. They have come in for a bit of stick, we have lost a couple of games, but the lads have always believed in how they are progressing and they always felt a performance like that in them. There is still a lot to work on but I’m so pleased for them. They got over the line with a nice victory against a very good side.

“The lads really believe they are making good strides and attack is always the one that gets put under the most pressure. It’s always the last piece of the jigsaw and I’m delighted they went through so many phases and held onto the ball and broke them down.

“I thought Jack Conan was very good. He has not started an international for quite some time, but he was just himself and it was pretty fitting that he finished that try off.”

Switching to the opening Ireland try, a peach of a lineout move that sent Keith Earls through the England cover, Farrell added: “It’s something that we have worked on all week. You are always trying to find a way to, first of all, win the lineout cleanly and, secondly, how you can manipulate a defence on the back of that.

“We worked all week and we practised it hard on Friday with our timing with Keith Earls. I thought Jack Conan was outstanding too to deliver the ball because Tom Curry had read it very well. That was very pleasing. And I actually thought if Keith Earls’ second try had stood (early in the second half), that would have been pretty special.”


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