'We play our own way' - Farrell backs Ireland's game-plan to succeed in New Zealand

The Ireland head coach was speaking shortly after naming his 40-man squad for the summer tour.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

ANDY FARRELL SAYS he has no concerns about how the Irish provinces finished the club season as he prepares to take a 40-man squad on tour to New Zealand.

All four provinces will have been disappointed with how their campaigns ended – with Ulster and Leinster both tasting defeat in the URC semi-finals just last weekend, while Leinster also came up short in the Champions Cup final last month.

Munster made it as far as the quarter-finals of both the Champions Cup and URC, suffering a penalty-shooting defeat to Toulouse in Europe before being well beaten by Ulster, while Connacht failed to make the URC playoffs.

In particular, the manner in which Leinster and Ulster were both beaten in recent weeks has led to some concern regarding how Irish teams deal with more powerful packs, but Farrell says he doesn’t share the same fears, speaking shortly after naming his squad for Ireland’s summer tour earlier today.

“A lot gets said about Ireland and are they playing like Munster, are they playing like Leinster, are they playing like Ulster etc. We’re Ireland, we’re our own team, you know?” Farrell said.

“We play our own way and we’ve come up against big teams before and been unbelievably physical. 

Physicality is not just about fronting up, it’s how you play the game and how you get opportunities to create space to be able to get over the gainline and be able to be aggressive in the right parts of the game. 

“I think we’ve done pretty well of late in that type of scenario, so no, it doesn’t affect us at all.” 

Farrell has named five uncapped players in his squad, including versatile Leinster back Ciarán Frawley.

“Ciarán’s like a number players who were selected, there’s massive potential there, and we want to see that potential flourish under extreme pressure,” Farrell said.

ciaran-frawley-with-sam-johnson-and-ross-thompson Ciarán Frawley is one of five uncapped players in the squad. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“He’s the type of player this tour is brilliant for because this is what touring is about. We get to find out about players, how they live away from home. Having good teammates within a squad of 40 is pretty important, and versatility; whilst we’re playing on the other end of the world it’s very hard to get people out there within 48 hours, so you have to have versatility in your group.

“Ciarán, he can play a number of positions, he played fullback last weekend when he came on (for Leinster) and looked pretty comfortable. But we know he can play very well at 10 and 12 as well.”

One player unfortunate to miss out is Ulster’s Robert Baloucoune, who picked up an injury in the province’s URC semi-final loss to the Stormers on Saturday.

“He’s a few things going on with his hip that’s muscular, it’s not structural damage, which is a good thing, but the injury is set to be 4-6 weeks. 

We had Rob in yesterday and we were waiting on the results of that. Gutted for him, absolutely, but gutted for ourselves as coaches as well because this is the type of tour that’s made for people like Rob to show his worth on the big stage, and that’s what the tour is all about. 

“This is the start of our World Cup campaign and we want players like Rob involved in that process.”

Farrell is hoping his squad can achieve something special by becoming the first Ireland team to win in New Zealand, but he also believes that just the experience of touring in itself will be hugely valuable for his players, this being Ireland’s first tour since Australia 2018.

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“Our last performance against them (New Zealand), or any good performance you’ve seen over the last 18 months to two years, we need to be better than that,” he continued.

“It’s different over there, and that’s why touring for these lads is so important. We’ve missed it. We’ve lads on over 20 caps that have never toured.

“Walking around Auckland or Wellington or Dunedin, it’s not like walking down Ballsbridge and people winding the window down and saying how good you are. 

“This is completely different. This is proper international rugby that doesn’t get any better and it’s exactly what we want at this point in time.

“We’re so excited about taking this squad as a group of 40 to probably the hardest place in world rugby to go to, and find out about ourselves.

“This is a historic tour that will probably never be done again, certainly with how we’ve structured the tour. Maybe Ireland will never get to play a three-game Test series out there again. This is the ultimate, we’re talking about building now towards a World Cup, what you want to do in those type of circumstances is test yourself, and it doesn’t get any tougher that coming to New Zealand and playing in their backyard for three Test matches.” 

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