Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.
# Selection
Farrell backs impressive Ireland 23 to weather the Scottish storm
The Ireland boss says good preparation has remained key for his team.

ANDY FARRELL HAS been onto the weatherman this week.

Or a “specialist weather fella” as the Ireland head coach calls his contact. So while the rest of us have been updating our weather apps to check how things are looking for tomorrow in Edinburgh, Farrell has perhaps the most accurate prediction.

“It changes all the time,” said Farrell yesterday afternoon. “It doesn’t matter whether you talk to a specialist or not, it changes in their eyes as well.

“So, three o’clock to six o’clock it was snowing yesterday and it could be sleet, maybe turning into rain. It all depends on how cold it is.”

It remains to be seen exactly how testing the conditions are at Murrayfield by the time the 3pm kick-off rolls around, but it would be a shame if rain limits what these two exciting attacking teams can do. Ireland lead the way for tries and linebreaks in this Six Nations, but Scotland are just behind.

It would be a relatively different challenge for Ireland to play in a downpour, having had dry weather for all of their games so far this season. Farrell tends to look at these things with the glass half-full and he reckons his team are well-prepared after getting drenched at training on Thursday.

“The coldest day of the year so far was yesterday and we went outside and we trained fully for a good hour and 10 minutes,” he explained. “We trained pretty well.”

He doesn’t expect Scotland to stray too far from their identity either way.

“If the weather does come in, they’ll still play like that. You’ve got to earn the right to be able to play that game, haven’t you? The ball tends to slow down a little bit obviously, but I suppose the attacking game, being first off the floor and winning all the collisions, turnover ball and transition – they all come into play even more so in those types of conditions. And the set-piece.”

Adding to Farrell’s sense of belief is that he has named a matchday 23 that is remarkably strong on paper. Only the injured Tadhg Beirne and Finlay Bealham are missing in terms of Ireland’s frontline squad. 

craig-casey-andy-farrell-and-jamison-gibson-park Dan Sheridan / INPHO Farrell at Ireland training this week. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

With Tadhg Furlong, Garry Ringrose, and captain Johnny Sexton back from injury to start, Dan Sheehan and Peter O’Mahony reverting to the XV, and Robbie Henshaw and Jamison Gibson-Park returning on the bench, it’s an impressive Irish selection.

There are outside concerns about rustiness in some of these players, but Farrell believes Ireland’s high-intensity training has them ready to get straight back up to Six Nations speed.

The truth is that Ireland are seven-point favourites for tomorrow and they’re well ahead of Scotland in their development as a top-level force. They should win, but Farrell warns that there’s plenty in the Scots’ favour this weekend.

“It’s two sides who are still in with a shout for the championship, that’s the reality,” he said.

“To be able to win a Triple Crown for them is huge, Stuart Hogg’s 100th cap is another bit of emotion that they’ll throw into the mix. You get to the point where all these things thrown into the pot add a little bit more spice to the game.

“Playing away in Murrayfield is always a tough ask anyway, but when all sorts of things are on the line for the home team and even more so for us in our opinion, we’re still in with a chance of going for a Grand Slam, etc., it’s the perfect mix.

“It’s exactly what we want, how we want to be challenged and challenge ourselves.”

That’s the Farrell mantra. This is the first time he’s been near a Grand Slam as a head coach, but his life in rugby has been littered with success in both league and union. 

Farrell knows exactly what it’s like to be tantalisingly close to a huge achievement and what it takes to get over the line.

the-ireland-team-huddle Dan Sheridan / INPHO Ireland are two wins away from a Grand Slam. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s in the preparation and there’s only one way to fully believe really without it being plastic,” said Farrell.

“You can’t prepare half-heartedly and expect to walk out confident.

“When you are in the cauldron, it squeezes everything out of you. So, our preparation is absolutely key to that and how we make each other feel all week and understanding if everyone is on the same page and everyone feels the same.

“That’s absolutely the key and it’s something we’ve been building towards for a while now and from what I’ve seen this week, it continues to build.

“With our week what we’ve got really good at is making sure that towards the end of the week, the right balance is there between switching on and switching off, and being relaxed enough and not being too drained as far as the emotion of the occasion.”

So far, Farrell and co. have been able to find just the right balance.

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