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'We should love defending', says Farrell as he vows to fix Irish inaccuracies

The defence coach was irked by the absence of Ireland’s appetite without the ball.

IT WOULD HAVE taken a brave man to cross Andy Farrell’s path yesterday as he pored over the defensive inaccuracies which contributed to Ireland’s Murrayfield disaster.

He’s a formidable figure at the best of times but sitting at the top of Carton House’s press conference room, it was clear that Farrell was still simmering from the weekend’s performance.

Andy Farrell Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Englishman was unwilling to go into too much detail but what he did say was significant.

“We got pretty narrow twice, there are all sorts of reasons for that, whether they be technical or tactical or whether it’s just sheer lack of impact,” he explained.

“There are all sorts of reasons why tries are scored from a defensive point of view. Look, we’ll work on the reasons why. I’m more concerned about the mood at the time, of our lack of want to get back in the line and enjoy our defence.

“Our mood was completely different in the first half compared to what it was in the second half and I think we let things a little bit affect us and we shouldn’t do that defensively, we should love defending.

“Every single time we get an opportunity to defend, we should love it and we didn’t. So our mood was affected, our appetite was affected a little bit and we got it back in the second half.

“I think the upsetting thing for myself after the game was that Vern Cotter came up to me – and Scotland, all credit to them, I thought they played really well, especially in the first half – but he said, ‘Jeez, you changed your defence in the second half, didn’t you?’.

“And we didn’t. We didn’t. So now you can understand why I’m talking about the mood.”

As the questions were fired at him, Farrell became more animated.

Since assuming the role of Ireland’s defence coach last year, the 41-year-old has been widely-praised for the job he has done in making Joe Schmidt’s side hungrier and more aggressive in defence.

During his time over here, Farrell has presided over wins against South Africa, the All Blacks and Australia and certainly there had been a far greater intensity to the way Ireland got off the line and looked to defend during the second half of 2016.

But Saturday was arguably his toughest day yet. Scotland’s three tries brought the overall tally conceded to 23 tries in eight games, an average of 2.8 per game.

Paddy Jackson tackles Sean Maitland Source: Craig Watson/INPHO

“That along with maybe the second Test of the South Africa game, yeah, I think both games were pretty similar – chalk and cheese, first half, second half. Yeah, so pretty disappointed,” Farrell said when asked if it was most frustrating game since coming on board.

“There’s all sorts of reasons, that’s what I’m saying, but there’s no excuse.

“Whatever the reason, the knock-on effect of whatever’s gone on a minute before, 30 seconds before, five seconds before, we have an opportunity to love defending and go after them and get the ball back, and we didn’t.

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“In the second half we got the results for it, we got the ball back on plenty of occasions because of the pressure that we applied. But at this level, against a good Scottish side, and all credit to them, you don’t get away with it.

The Fix is in

“Or you nearly get away with it, you think you’ve nearly got away with it and all of a sudden in the last 10 minutes, you haven’t.”

After Schmidt started the inquest into the Scottish defeat on Sunday evening, yesterday’s team review session wouldn’t have made for pretty viewing as the coaches picked apart a performance which failed to meet standards set by this Irish side.

Robbie Henshaw yesterday spoke of an added hunger this week as the players look to channel that frustration into preparing well for the second assignment of the Championship against Italy.

With such a short window to look at the faults in the defensive performance and then rectify them before Rome, time is very much of the essence but Farrell insists it will be fixed before this weekend.

“Yeah. We’ll fix it,” he said. “The disappointing thing with this game is that you’re disappointed with the outcome of the first half, but let’s not forget that it was fantastic the way that they came back against a confident side that was bullish at half-time like Scotland and we came back and almost blew the game out of the water for a good 20-25 minutes.

To lose it twice isn’t great to take, but the players are an honest bunch. They want to get better, they want to improve and they want to win the competition for Ireland.

“There’s no doubt that come training this afternoon after the meeting they’ll be wanting to get back on the horse and put it right.”

When asked if the problems stemmed from a lack of communication or leadership with both Johnny Sexton and Jared Payne absent from the back line, Farrell added: “It ain’t just the leaders. You know, we’re growing as leaders, we’ve got good leaders, we got lads who are wanting to lead, who are learning.

Tommy Bowe dejected Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“So we’ve got new caps who are coming in that need to fit in and so it’s a team issue, and defence is everyone. Look, in attack you can get people out of place, you can get a pass that’s slightly off and you can talk about it and try to correct it, but if one person is out of sync in defence it stands out massively and we all pay for it.

“So it has to be across the board. We’ll keep that in-house [the players' explanations]. There’s all sorts of reasons. You look at yourself first. There’s all sorts of reasons, we’ll look at ourselves as coaches.

“There’s preparation, we’ll look at one-another as leaders and sometimes you can look for too much of an excuse and we don’t want to get into that.”

Subscribe to The42 Rugby Show podcast here:

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Ryan Bailey

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