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No doubting Ireland's positive trajectory as Farrell lauds their mental strength

The most exciting thing for Farrell and co. is that there is plenty of scope for improvement.

Hugo Keenan raises the Triple Crown.
Hugo Keenan raises the Triple Crown.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

HE WOULD OBVIOUSLY love if his Ireland team were sitting top of it, but there’s plenty for Andy Farrell to like about the look of the final 2022 Guinness Six Nations table.

Four bonus-point wins from five games, the most tries and points scored, the fewest tries and points conceded, and a top-two finish for the first time since the Irish Grand Slam back in 2018. Silverware this year came in the form of the Triple Crown.

Even the sole defeat was a relatively encouraging one as Farrell’s side came away from Paris with a losing bonus point after pushing les Bleus hard in the second half in front of a raucous crowd in Paris. Ireland won in Twickenham for the first time since 2018.

All in all, it has been a pleasing championship for this Irish group.

“I think from the outset we were open enough to say that we wanted to go for a Grand Slam and not be scared of that,” said Farrell after Saturday’s 26-5 win over Scotland.

“We want to win every game that’s in front of us, there’s no doubt about that.

“We came up short in Paris but you fast forward to today and for the second year in a row we put ourselves in a position where we’re into the last day with a chance and we knew we had a chance of winning a Triple Crown, which is a trophy to go for.

“There’s pressures within all that, going to Twickenham and getting an away win, there’s pressures within that.

caelan-doris-dan-sheehan-and-kieran-treadwell-celebrate-after-the-game Ireland celebrate after their win over Scotland. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

“So there’s plenty of learnings but also I think the group has grown in many areas, none more so than the mental strength of the group that’s got great resolve at this moment in time, hence the bonus-point wins.”

Perhaps the most exciting thing for Farrell is that Ireland still have lots of scope for improvement. Their four wins in this Six Nations weren’t without blemishes even as they earned try-scoring bonus points in each of them.

“You’re never going to get the perfect performance and it certainly wasn’t perfect tonight, but we rolled with the punches really well and that’s the most pleasing thing,” said Farrell.

“I’ve always said to you that the game takes its own course and the opposition are always going to have say. Scotland are a hell of a side to shift when they’re on it.

“They certainly came to the Aviva with nothing to lose and determined tonight. We did well to shake them off in the end.”

The reality is that Ireland’s ambitious approach in attack under Farrell is never going to be without errors. The rewards are high when players are willing to quick-tap, offload the ball, push passes, and make daring decisions. The flip side is that mistakes are part of the process.

Nonetheless, Ireland will be striving for much better accuracy when they head on their five-game tour of New Zealand this summer, with three demanding Tests against the All Blacks to come.

bundee-aki-celebrates-winning-with-his-son-andronicus-junior-papamau-aki Bundee Aki with his son, Andronicus Junior Papamau Aki. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

While Ireland’s attack continues to impress, Farrell has been even more pleased with their defensive efforts. Moments like Hugo Keenan’s try-saving tackle on Stuart Hogg and Mack Hansen’s ball-and-all hit on Mark Bennett stood out against the Scots, helping Ireland to continue their theme of defensive strength.

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Asked if he was happier with Ireland’s attacking or defensive record, Farrell was unequivocal.

“‘The least amount [of tries] because it shows what type of side we are and the character that we have,” said Farrell.

“That was what was most pleasing about the game today. How we defended our own line in that second half was true grit.

“To have four tries scored against you [in this Six Nations], it says a lot about the group and how much they are willing to fight for one another.”

A new episode of The Front Row, in partnership with Guinness, is out now. After Ireland’s Triple Crown win, Murray Kinsella gives us the rundown on his team of the tournament. Ireland international Sene Naoupu also joins the panel to chat about her career and look ahead to the start of the Women’s Six Nations. Click here to subscribe or listen below:


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