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What Ireland spoke about at halftime before closing out All Blacks win

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Andy Farrell enjoyed the freedom of Dublin on Saturday night, so much so that he arrived in for his post-game Ireland media briefing and proceeded to comfortably plonk himself into a seat that had a bright yellow sticker in front of it stating: “Do not sit here.” The pandemic is clearly over for the Englishman in terms of his results with Ireland. 

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Whereas they were initially tepid, reaching a crisis point last February where defeats in the opening two rounds of the Six Nations equated to Ireland’s worst start to the championship since 1998, they are now racing ahead of expectation and Saturday’s success against the All Blacks was their seventh on the bounce. 

By the time they head to Paris on February 12 for the second round game versus France in the 2022 Six Nations, that sequence of Ws could well have stretched to nine as Ireland respectively have Argentina and Wales in Dublin next weekend and at the start of the championship before they heads off on their travels. 

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The Aviva Stadium is definitely a place of cosiness for Farrell, the win over the All Blacks being the eleventh success in a dozen home games since the ex-England assistant was promoted from his Ireland assistant’s role under Joe Schmidt.        

As the master of the D, he already had a reputation of being quite a nuisance to New Zealand. He helped Stuart Lancaster’s England over the line against them in 2012, did likewise twice with Ireland in 2016 and 2018, and sandwiched in the middle of those Irish exploits was that dramatically drawn three-game Test series with the 2017 Lions. 

For sure, Farrell had an enormous influence when it came to frustrating the All Blacks in his capacity as a defensive mastermind but as a head coach still serving his apprenticeship, what was it about the Ireland approach this weekend that so unnerved Ian Foster’s team and left the Kiwis deservedly on the wrong side of the 29-20 scoreline? “Just being ourselves, doing what we said we would do and fully understanding how we were going to go about it and trusting ourselves to play how we said we were going to play. That is it in a nutshell really. I thought we were composed enough to not get distracted along the way, to play the game we wanted to play.  

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“The game is all about creating opportunities and with that, you also get a bit of field position and territory. We created quite a bit of opportunity, certainly in the first half. Did we get the reward for it? We could have been better, we could have been more clinical, but the opportunities were being created and it allowed us to keep a hold of the game. 

“We were frustrated (at half-time)… but the feeling from the players was when we were at our best we were causing them trouble so the sense of confidence was there. We talked about just being calm and sticking to the process. There are all sorts of things that can go through your mind regarding thinking too far ahead as regards winning.

“It’s about the process of everything, making sure our exits were clean, which they were, making sure our kicking game was spot on, which was great from time to time, and to just keep playing. Even in the last ten minutes. We have seen so many sides against the All Blacks just try and shut up shop. You have to just keep playing, sticking to the process and back ourselves – and we did that.”

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