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The message Farrell delivered with All Blacks next for Ireland

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

No sooner had Andy Farrell trooped in off the Aviva Stadium pitch on Saturday night did thoughts quickly turn to what is on the horizon for Ireland in 16 weeks’ time, their Test series opener against the All Blacks in Auckland on July 9. Not since 2012, when the outcome was 3-0 in favour of New Zealand, have the Irish toured there but the upcoming visit is now very much on the minds of coach Farrell and his skipper Johnny Sexton.

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It’s a three-Test series for the new Triple Crown champions, with matches two and three versus the All Blacks slated for Dunedin and Wellington as they look to build on an impressive 13 months in which they have won twelve of their last 13 games – including a convincing November win in Dublin over Ian Foster’s side. 

Not since their 2018 trip to Australia have Ireland been on an end-of-season tour and Farrell can’t wait to find out more about the development of his squad by tasking them with securing a first-ever win in New Zealand against the All Blacks. 

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“It’s massive, it’s the perfect opportunity that the group needs,” enthused Farrell in the wake of the 26-5 Ireland victory over the Scots which secured them a second-place finish in the Six Nations behind unbeaten France, the only side to have beaten them in just over a year.  

“We have talked time and time again about the lack of touring and it’s priceless. It looks like we are able to take a slightly big group which is great.

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“We have had 37 lads in camp and five or six of them that have gone away injured, so there are people who have already had a sniff and some people have not had any game – but we want to see them under pressure and I suppose going to New Zealand, there is no pressure like it so it’s the perfect opportunity for us to find out more about ourselves. 

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Sexton agreed: “We bounced back from the French game, to do that I am very proud of this team… It’s a good place to be because there is just so much more left in us. That is what we have got to keep driving home. We have the biggest test in world rugby which is going down to New Zealand and playing a lot of games out there.”

It was round two when Ireland lost to France by six points in Paris but they rebounded with successive bonus-point wins over Italy, England and Scotland to end their Six Nations on a high. 

In doing so they also illustrated an improved ability to remain patient as things weren’t entirely straightforward in each of those wins. It took some time to adjust to Italy getting reduced to 13 players and to cope with England having only 14, while the Scottish defence was one of the most dogged rearguards they have encountered for some time.  

“We’re disappointed not to have won a Grand Slam but we dusted ourselves off after the disappointment of Paris and got back on the horse and that is all you can ask for. The three bonus-point wins on the trot is some achievement,” reckoned Farrell after a four-wins-from-five campaign was an improvement on the three-wins-from-five efforts in 2020 and 2021. 

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“It’s part of the development, the mental side of the game is just as important as the physical side and there is still a jump in our potential the more that they can concentrate on that. It’s something that we have talked about a lot and you have seen it again (against Scotland).

“We kicked to the corner a few times and didn’t come away with the points or the accuracy that we wanted but we stayed calm and because of that we kept the field position and the pressure on Scotland and the points came in the end. 

“Errors are coming and in some games more than others and it’s how you react to them. That is your choice and at the minute we are able to stay nice and calm and get on with the next job. That has been one of the reasons why we have been able to get the bonus-point wins.”

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