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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 19 June, 2018
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'We’ll see what the good old-fashioned Irish ticker's about, won’t we?'

Ireland assistant coach Andy Farrell wants to see what the players are made of in Melbourne.

Murray Kinsella reports from Melbourne

ONE OF ANDY Farrell’s key strengths is the fact that he is a fine orator.

When Joe Schmidt hired the former England defence coach, it was partly because he understood that Farrell could add something different, something emotive, to the coaching group.

The main reason, of course, was Farrell’s expertise in defence coaching but his value as a speaker has been important to Ireland too.

Andy Farrell Farrell at Ireland training in Melbourne yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

When Farrell is put up to talk to the media, he invariably engages his audience with honest and direct communication, so it’s not difficult to imagine how effective he is in front of Ireland’s players.

This week, with the stinging sensation of a first defeat in 13 games in the Ireland camp, he will be an important part of the efforts to ensure the players understand exactly what is at stake in the second Test against the Wallabies on Saturday in Melbourne.

“We’ll see what we’re made of,” said Farrell yesterday after Ireland trained at St Kevin’s College in the Melbourne suburbs.

“I mean, this is what top-level rugby’s all about. We’ll see what the good old-fashioned Irish ticker’s about, won’t we? Because it’s the game that matters for us to stay alive.

“There’s a few lads that are a bit down on themselves, a bit frustrated. I think there’s a realisation that they deserved to win and that hurts within itself and I do get the sense that after a couple of meetings and understanding how we need to move forward for the rest of the week that the key is to hold them back, especially after watching training.”

A heated Tuesday training session is a good sign in a week where a vicious response is required from Ireland against the Wallabies.

From Farrell’s point of view, that aggressive mindset is essential.

“Sometimes it isn’t complicated, you know, sometimes it’s a little bit of attitude and a bit of fight,” said Farrell, who will be among the contenders to succeed Schmidt if he leaves after the 2019 World Cup.

“There is a little bit of a realisation, if we’re totally honest, that they edged a few areas that are pretty precious to us and that we’ve been good at in the past. That’s why we need to make sure that we balance the week out and make sure that we’re ready for Saturday.”

A view of the team huddle Ireland had a full-on training session on Tuesday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Among the areas that Ireland pride themselves on but came out second best in the first Test are the breakdown and the aerial game.

Some of the Wallabies’ 26 kicks allowed the likes of Israel Folau to show his aerial quality, while David Pocock led a ferocious Wallabies effort to slow and steal Irish possession at the breakdown – where Schmidt’s side are usually superb.

“Well, we’re good at that aren’t we?” said Farrell. “You can talk all day long about the brilliance of certain people at the breakdown for them, but we’ve prided ourselves and shown in the past that not too many people get access that way into our game.”

The Wallabies kicked more often than Ireland, who had 22 kicks from hand, and out-half Johnny Sexton, who came off the bench last weekend but will start on Saturday, admitted Ireland been “a little bit” surprised at the scale of their kicking tactics.

“Over the last few years they’ve run the ball loads, but if you’ve got Folau in your backline you’d be silly not to kick high to him,” said Sexton. “He’s outstanding in the air and we’ve got some outstanding guys in the air as well and the margins between a few of the aerial contests were so small.

“Both guys get up as high and he’s just, just winning it. I’m sure they’ll come again with it this week and we’ve got to be a little bit better in that regard.”

This tour comes at the end of a long and glorious season for many of the players in Ireland’s squad, with the Grand Slam secured in March and Leinster subsequently winning Pro14 and Champions Cup titles too.

But Farrell explains that he has no fear whatsoever of fatigue being a factor over the next two Tests in this series.

Johnny Sexton Sexton is looking for a much improved Irish performance. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“No, I don’t, honestly, because it’s not even in our vocabulary. It’s not. We’re here to win a Test match series against the number three team in the world.

“It doesn’t really get any tougher than that,” continued Farrell. “If you can’t get up for that, if you can’t get excited about the week that we’ve got ahead, then we’re in the wrong place.

“Nobody’s mentioned fatigue. Of course, it’s been a hell of a year but these boys are gung-ho to play a Test match and draw a series, make it level at the weekend. There’s no excuses there.”

Farrell and Sexton were both in a similar position to this one a year ago with the Lions, when the tourists lost the first Test to the All Blacks but bounced back to win in the second clash before a draw in the final fixture at Eden Park.

“I actually didn’t think of that comparison but I was on the bench for that first game as well,” said Sexton.

“If you lose a game, you can look back and say, ‘If we play as well as we can, and do everything we can,’ you can live with it to a certain extent, but there’s parts of the game [last weekend] that we look back on and say, ‘We didn’t quite do that good enough.’

“We could go out and play absolutely brilliant this week and still not get the right result because we’re in Australia, playing against a very good team with very good players.

“That’s the nature of coming down at the end of the season and playing Tests down here. At least let’s play our best and see where that gets us.”

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Murray Kinsella

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