Andy Farrell’s Ireland team managed to end their 2020 season on a positive note with a 31-16 win over Scotland on Saturday. And while the performance was much improved from the previous games against England and Georgia, there is still some concern surrounding the direction Joe Schmidt’s successor is taking this squad, with Ireland again looking suspect for much of the first half in Dublin.

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Still, the win has gone some way to easing the pressure on Farrell as he looks forward to the 2021 Six Nations.

Here’s what the Irish media have been saying about the head coach following a far from convincing Autumn Nations Cup campaign:

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Peter O’Reilly, Sunday Times: “Confidence – or the lack thereof – was the key theme of the build-up to yesterday. After the shambles that was the second half performance against Georgia, Farrell bemoaned his players’ failure to have the courage of their convictions. From the outside, it just looked like there was no clarity of purpose. And this from a group of players who had been in camp for the guts of two months.”

Neil Francis, Sunday Independent: “Ireland need to change and augment their coaching ticket because, despite having enough quality in their roster, if that is not channelled in the right direction you will not get the best out of it.”

Alan Quinlan, Off The Ball: “I don’t think there’s a lot more he could have done regards personnel changes in the last eight or nine months, but the issue is the consistency and not making mistakes, particularly around the breakdown, set-piece, all that kind of stuff, we spoke last week about a number of issues there. You can’t just get rid of them and say everything is perfect now. We’ve dominated Scotland probably for 20 years. We have the measure of Scotland, we had the measure of Wales in the first game, we’re at a level below England, France, New Zealand, maybe Australia, we haven’t seen South Africa (this year). But we’re at a level below and the challenge is to try get more consistency and continuity.”

Eddie O’Sullivan, RTÉ: “I think we are where we thought we were at the start of the season. You have to measure against Scotland here, this Scottish team are a bit of a bucket of stream really, they come in these spurts. The first 30 minutes they looked great because we stood off them. Again, the second-half, they had a lot of errors, 15 penalties I think and 13 turnovers. So let’s keep it at a certain level. Very positive, but against Scotland, I’d have to measure it that way.”

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Gerry Thornley, the Irish Times: “The nature of a more commanding win over Scotland than the unconvincing win which started 2020 was a good way of bookending the year. It can fuel real belief within the squad that they are generating something positive and can be genuine contenders in the 2021 Six Nations with the probability of Tadhg Furlong, Dan Leavy and Garry Ringrose fit and healthy.”

Andy Dunne, Off The Ball: “We’ve probably all been starved of invention. The team have very adequately demonstrated that they’re able to retain possession in the opposition 22, and they’re able to score against weaker sides using that tact. That approach doesn’t work, certainly against England and it’s unlikely to work against physically more dominant sides. So it’s all well and good to beat a Georgia or an underperforming Wales or an average Scotland side…. The positive side is, I think Farrell has been brave in his selection policy. He’s been brave in the recent weeks in terms of trying to introduce some new style of play, and that takes time to bed in.”

Hugh Farrelly, Mail on Sunday: “If Andy Farrell had followed the French regeneration route by installing James Ryan as captain and surrounding him with talent good enough and young enough to be peaking at France 2023, he would have bought himself the time (Johann) Van Graan recently acquired. Instead, he clung to the core that delivered for his predecessor Schmidt until Ireland’s unravelling in 2019, players he knew well from his time as the New Zealander’s assistant… The result is the absence of a discernible direction or clear theme behind Project Farrell and the prevailing uncertainty has extended to his coaching ticket with issues arising this year in attack (Mike Catt), at the lineout (Simon Easterby) and in the scrum (John Fogarty).”

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Simon Lewis, Irish Examiner: “Saturday’s performance, save for a 20-minute spell from the 10th minute when Ireland once again seemed to retreat into their shells as Scotland opened up a 9-3 lead, was the first solid proof for those of us outside the Ireland camp that progress is being made. Those within have been telling us that great strides have been made on the training field, which is all well and good but this was something tangible for supporters to get behind ahead of the 2021 championship opener in Wales on February 7.”

Tony Ward, Irish Independent: “There’s much done in terms of transition post-Japan and Joe Schmidt, but so much more to do for Farrell and Ireland now. We are officially the best of the rest behind England and France in this part of the world and in truth I think that is a fair analysis at the end of this strange but, we all hope, ‘once-off’ Nations Cup campaign. If we could wave a magic wand and bring certain players back into the fold – specifically Garry Ringrose, Jordan Larmour, Tadhg Furlong, Joey Carbery, Dan Leavy and our most recent signing James Lowe without losing any of the current crop prior to facing the Welsh at the Principality on February 7 – then there has to be grounds for optimism that a change in winning style and substance is possible.”

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