Under-fire Ireland coach Andy Farrell has come out fighting, insisting that life wouldn’t be worth living if he didn’t feel the pressure that goes hand-in-hand with being a rookie Test level head coach. Farrell developed a hugely respected reputation as a defence coach over the years with England, Ireland and the Lions but he has encountered teething problems since taking over from Joe Schmidt as the Irish head coach.
Last Sunday’s defeat to France meant that Ireland had lost their opening two matches in the championship for the first time since 1998 when the Six Nations was still the old Five Nations set-up.
He now has a record of six wins from eleven games in charge and with whispers growing about whether he has the tools to go on and become a successful head coach at international level, Farrell has come out strong in the lead-up to the must-win February 27 round three game away to Italy.
“I have dealt with it all my life,” he said about the pressure he is now enduring. “You either embrace the pressure or you get buried by it. I enjoy it. It makes you feel alive. You know that when you are taking the gig on. I believe if you have not got pressure in your life it’s not living anyway, so it goes with the territory I suppose.”
Asked if there were any comforting signs of encouragement for him from the respective 16-21 and 13-15 losses to Wales and France, Farrell added: “I suppose the character in the side the Welsh game and the disappointment that it was there to be won. We didn’t quite get over the line but the character and the work and the will and the fight to try and achieve that was there for all to see I would have thought.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 2, 2021
“And then in the French game, everyone was talking about just how good a team that they are but the game takes a different course if it goes after 23 minutes we are ten points up, but having said that we have got to be better. We have got to be better. There are no excuses. We have got to be better at imposing our game on the opposition and that is what we want to do against Italy.
“I’ll do what is right for the team and what is right for the team is making sure we get the best performance out of them. We’ll pick the strongest side that we need to to make that happen.”
Having made do without veteran half-backs Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray and talisman lock James Ryan in the loss to the French, Farrell expects Ireland to travel to Rome with a full deck to deal from. “I’m sure by the start of next week we will have a full bill of health,” he said, although he later added that Caelan Doris, who dropped out of the squad in the week of the Wales game, is out for the foreseeable future due to investigations into concussive symptoms.
“Caelan is getting well looked after, seeing the right people and getting the right advice and making sure that he is comfortable on his return to play. That is still in process but we don’t expect to see him back any time soon.”
With three members of the France management – including head coach Fabien Galthie – having tested positive for Covid-19 in the wake of last weekend’s round two match in Dublin, Farrell and his squad will undergo an extra round of testing this week to ensure they continue to be all clear.
“We have all been thoroughly tested. We normally get tested twice a week. We had some downtime on Monday and we got tested in our own time there and all that has come back negative and then all the lads got tested again on Wednesday to come into camp on Thursday and we are getting tested again on Friday, so we’re literally up to the nose in it regarding testing. We’re doing everything that we can to make sure we are doing the right thing.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 3, 2021
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