'We know it's there to be won' - Farrell's Ireland hungry for Six Nations shot

The national team head coach is excited about the new ‘Eight Nations’ tournament this autumn.

Updated Aug 6th 2020, 5:14 PM

ANDY FARRELL SAYS his Ireland team will return to action in October aiming to secure the 2020 Six Nations title.

The championship was put on hold back in March but will resume when Ireland face Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on 24 October before a ‘Super Saturday’ rounds out the competition on 31 October, with Ireland taking on France in Paris that day.

Although Ireland were beaten by England after a disappointing performance in their most recent game in February, they remain in the hunt for the title and could move to the top of the Six Nations table with a bonus-point win over Italy in their ‘game in hand.’

andy-farrell Ireland boss Andy Farrell is excited by the autumn schedule. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Two bonus-point wins in their two remaining games would guarantee Ireland the title but securing that kind of victory away in Paris will be a major ask, with the French themselves also well in the mix.

Eddie Jones’ England, who currently lead the table, finish their campaign with a visit to Italy and will be expected to record a strong bonus-point win that could hand them the title.

While the odds are against Ireland claiming this delayed 2020 Six Nations crown, head coach Farrell says they will be doing everything in their power to pull it off.

“We’re a team who have our destiny in our hands a little bit even if it is a tough old task,” said Farrell on a video call today. “We have to perform against Italy first and we need what we need out of that game.

“I’m sure they will have reflected too and they will be tough first game up. All our lads are aware, I’ve been in contact with them, they know what is coming around the corner, from the inter-pro games to get selected and back into that Six Nations.

“We know it is there to be won and we will be hungry to do that and we won’t be frightened by that. Italy will be tough. And Paris is a hell of a game, isn’t it? It’s in our hands and we want to attack that full steam ahead.”

6N The current Six Nations table. Source: Six Nations

While announcing the rescheduled championship fixtures yesterday, the Six Nations also confirmed that it is organising the new once-off eight-nation tournament from 7 November through to 5 December.

The competition will feature the regular Six Nations teams plus two newcomers – widely expected to be confirmed as Fiji and Japan.

Ireland are set to be in a pool also containing England, Wales, and Fiji.

France, Scotland, Italy and Japan are expected to make up the other group.

With three pool games and a play-off fixture as well, it means Ireland are set for six Test matches in the space of seven weeks.

“Obviously, it hasn’t been announced officially but if it does get announced officially, I think it’s super-exciting,” said Farrell.

“A new competition, two new teams in the competition, a different format for everyone. It’s what everyone wants to see – a competition that’s going to be World Cup-like in a way. Along with the two games we’ve got left in the Six Nations, it could be that we’re together for eight or nine weeks, which is great for us moving forward.

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“The calendar is obviously packed but it’s packed with quality games and that’s what we all want to be part of.”

andy-farrell Farrell will be studying this month's inter-pros intently. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Farrell said he is as excited as anyone to see rugby return in Ireland on 22 and 23 August with Leinster facing Munster and then Connacht clashing with Ulster in the Pro14, with another round of inter-pros to follow the weekend after.

With so many Test matches to come in such a short space of time this autumn, Farrell said Ireland and other nations would “probably tend to utilise a squad that would be a little bit bigger than normal simply because of the run of games in back-to-back weeks, which is World Cup-esque.”

Farrell indicated that the Irish coaching staff will be watching the season’s resumption with an open mind regarding selection.

“That’s what we will be looking for when the Pro14 resumes on 22 August – to see who has used no excuses to make sure they get better as a player [during lockdown],” said Farrell.

“I know that speaking to a lot of the players, they have used it wisely, that they have reflected on how their games need to progress, whether that be putting on a little bit of weight and size or whether it’s all fitness and skill work.

“We’ll see what people have made of it from day one on 22 August. That’s what we’ll be looking at.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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