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'Why wouldn't we go hunting?': Farrell targets evolution along with a Six Nations title chase

International rugby is scheduled to return to these shores next week.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

SPORT IS NO longer a place of safe refuge from news of the wider world these days.

Escapism was easier before 2020, when the focal point of all bulletins, briefings and idle chit-chat didn’t have a direct impact on whether games of all shapes and sizes could proceed as scheduled.

In March, Andy Farrell took a seat in a meeting room at the Sports Campus and could offer little more than shrugged shoulders and ‘we’ll have to wait and sees’ after the Six Nations clash with Italy was postponed.

As luck has it, the same fate was dangled over the same fixture before Farrell took his seat for a virtual press conference yesterday. News, bloody hell!

As if to emphasise the point that sport is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, a technical glitch in the virtual press conference inadvertently cut one of Farrell’s answers off as a barrage of sound from a broadcaster’s news feed was pumped into everyone’s ears. Donald Trump’s explanation for sharing QAnon conspiracies on Twitter was way down the list of things we expected to hear in an Ireland head coach’s press conference, but that’s 2020.

Nphet’s repeated advice yesterday to move the Republic of Ireland to Level 5 restrictions brought the sword of Damocles back above the Six Nations.

The Irish Rugby bubble would need to pick up an exemption from the rules for the rest of the country to proceed as planned. If they succeed on and off the pitch, it could prove to be a grand plan indeed. Despite suffering another humbling loss to England last time out, Farrell’s side can still chase a trophy treat on Halloween.

10 points from their two matches against Italy and France would do the trick.

“When you look at it we’re one of the teams that’s lucky enough to still be in the hunt so why wouldn’t we go hunting?” said the Ireland head coach, still waiting for his fourth match in charge while just one day shy of a year on from Joe Schmidt’s exit.

“I think we’re the only team that can look after their own destiny really.

“10 points would seal it for us, but I don’t want to be disrespectful to Italy or France. All I want to do is make sure that we focus on ourselves and put our best foot forward and make sure that it’s a performance that we’re happy with.”

A key component under-pinning the sort of performance Farrell is asking for is the ability to adapt. To plug in Plan B when the blueprint begins to fray at the edges.

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“There is a little bit of an evolution that needs to happen within our game,” said Farrell.

I think one of our strengths is sticking to the plan, also one of our work-ons would be being adaptable in and around the plan, for our boys to see the whole picture.

“I’m not just talking about the generals of the team, I’m talking about everyone now to play with a vision, to play with an appetite to see things, to play with an appetite to make good decisions and to be able to execute on those decisions.”

a-view-of-the-ireland-team-warming-up Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Farrell went on to reiterate the increased responsibility he wants to see players take on. Player-led teams are nothing new, but the head coach is keen for more players to take the lead by saying ‘it isn’t just about the leadership group’.

Indeed, a handful of players who were not named in the squad were brought in to train with the Ireland squad this week. Currently fringe players by definition, the likes of Craig Casey, James Lowe and Fineen Wycherley have the potential to make a big impact on the international stage in years to come. Until then, Farrell called on the understudies to show why they should take centre stage.

“The remit to them when they come into camp is make sure that they don’t waste our time.

“These guys will have three or four days with us and hopefully that whets their appetite to make sure they get back in their room sometime soon, we hope.

“They’ve done exactly what we’ve asked them, they’ve fitted in straight away and they get the run of the sessions like everybody else as well.

“We’ve two, three days before we go into a normal Test week and we want them to be front-runners in that. We want that experience that helps them to hopefully helps us in the future.”

With a little luck, that future of organised international rugby will reconvene as planned next week.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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