Farrell puts faith in new combinations to flip the script against England

Whether through injury or a coach’s call, this week’s starting XV has just five names in common with the February defeat.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

AFTER THREE STRAIGHT losses to England, Andy Farrell was never going to come out and promise comeuppance for the World Cup finalists.

However, the Ireland head coach is dearly hoping that a change in approach, change in attitude and also in key personnel will bring about a change of fortunes against England in Twickenham.

Ireland have suffered (though not necessarily on the scoreboard) heavy and dispiriting defeats against England three times since the start of 2019. The spectre of that year’s losses cast a pall over Joe Schmidt’s final year in charge, while this year’s loss in Twickenham counter-weighs all the talk of renewed positivity in what all agree is a happy camp in Abbottstown.

With injury to Tadhg Furlong, Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw, Jordan Larmour and Garry Ringrose Ireland’s starting XV has a new look by necessity.

But throw in the demotion of Conor Murray and there is a genuinely fresh sense about a squad that does not fear changes.

Farrell’s big call in the starting line-up this weekend was to hand Ross Byrne the reins at 10 after leaving him out of the 23 that beat Wales.

Indeed, Byrne and Bundee Aki are the sole survivors of the Twickenham pre-World Cup wash-out in this weekend’s back-line – there are just three more in the pack.

The young out-half, who missed out on the World Cup after starting the August clash, will be keen on banishing those memories.

“He deserves his chance,” Farrell said of the Leinster 10.

“How do you find out how they cope with big occasions unless you give them a chance?
You can’t just give a chance by picking them in a squad and training all the time.

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“Ross has played big games for Leinster and this is his chance to go to Twickenham and be part of a great team performance.”

In all likelihood, the contest will be decided in the areas in front of Byrne. England’s pack has proven all too dominant for Ireland’s over the past 23 months and the word ‘physicality’ featured in questions to Farrell over and over against after he named his team today.

Physicality and momentum go hand in hand with one another, though. So Farrell is hoping to see his players gain an edge and then follow through. Brains, then brawn.

We weren’t able to be physical in our last game against them because they harassed us in many areas. And we weren’t clinical enough in our exits and set-piece. When things start going wrong like that the other team gets a chance to be physical.

“If things start going our way and we get on the front foot I’ve no doubt we’ll be physical.”

The first-year head coach wasn’t willing to be as forthright on predicting a final result, but he insists there is confidence and hope to be worked with by the presence of new faces to create a different dynamic within the game.

“You can’t make promises. Not got a crystal ball. What I do know is that this is a different group, we’ve new combinations all over the field that are coming together and learning from these types of experiences. I can’t wait for them to get out there and show what they can do.

“We’re concentrating on ourselves. We gain confidence in how we prepare and making sure we understand how we want to play the game and that’s how we’re going in.”

He adds: “A game takes its own course, doesn’t it? You’ve to be good enough to make sure you have a good feel of what’s going on.”

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Sean Farrell

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