'We don't want an attack that's too tidy' - Farrell turns focus to the All Blacks

The Ireland head coach is keen for his team to be unpredictable.

James Lowe and Johnny Sexton embrace after the latter's try against Japan.
James Lowe and Johnny Sexton embrace after the latter's try against Japan.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Updated Nov 8th 2021, 12:26 PM

ANDY FARRELL WAS answering a question about James Lowe when he gave some insight into the identity he is trying to build in Ireland’s attack.

The Ireland head coach was in the middle of praising Lowe for improving the quality of his preparation for Test rugby when he dropped in a comment that initially seemed to be negative.

“He finds a way into the game… he’s not a tidy player,” said Farrell and you wondered if there was some criticism of Lowe coming.

Not so.

“But neither do we want our wingers to be tidy players,” continued Farrell.

Now, the Ireland boss didn’t go as far as to say he wants untidy players but our reading is that Farrell is determined not to completely polish Lowe for Test rugby, not to coach the autonomy and creativity out of him. 

Lowe at his best can make things happen even if they aren’t in the script pre-match.

He flitted around the pitch against Japan on Saturday showing a few glimpses of that game-breaking ability. Lowe played within Ireland’s attacking structure but their 1-3-2-2 shape is designed to allow players to make good decisions within that framework.

“There are always structures in place that people need to get everyone in order,” expanded Farrell.

“But at the same time, you don’t want to become too structured that we just become predictable, like a training-ground side.

“We don’t want an attack that’s too tidy, we want to play what’s in front of us.

“The game’s all about decision-making. It always has been and it always will be.”

jack-conan-with-caelan-doris Jack Conan carries with Caelan Doris and Jamison Gibson-Park in support. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In that sense, Farrell would have been a happy man on Saturday night after watching his team play what was in front of them consistently as they dismantled Japan.

Farrell will be realistic about the quality of the Japanese performance – three missed penalty kicks to touch gives some insight into their shortcomings – but Farrell will no doubt have been excited by what he saw too.

On Friday, forwards coach Paul O’Connell had spoken about the “new breed” of athletic and skillful Irish players. We saw plenty of evidence for that in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday as the dynamic Irish pack passed and offloaded, connecting strongly with their backs – helping the team towards 14 linebreaks in total.

Passes/offloads/carries by Ireland’s forwards vs. Japan:
  • 10/2/17 – Jack Conan
  • 7/0/11 – Caelan Doris
  • 7/0/5 – Tadhg Beirne
  • 6/1/7 – Rónan Kelleher
  • 5/0/8 – Tadhg Furlong
  • 4/1/6 – Josh van der Flier
  • 1/1/11 – James Ryan
  • 1/0/12 – Andrew Porter

It was telling, however, that Farrell was intent on highlighting Ireland’s defensive effort as his the best part. The Ireland boss knows that the All Blacks will bring an altogether different challenge in Dublin next weekend and his team’s defence will need to be sharp. 

The Kiwis are ranked number one in World Rugby’s official list and Farrell views them as the best team on the planet. A much-changed All Blacks team was poor in Rome on Saturday, still winning 47-9, but Ireland will be expecting something more akin to what the Kiwis delivered the previous weekend in an impressive win against Wales.

Ian Foster’s side won five of their six Rugby Championship games to earn that trophy this year and while they have been on tour for a long time now and surely weren’t helped by a stop-off in the US on their way to Europe, they will be favourites against Ireland.

“You need a bit of luck,” said Farrell when asked what is required to beat the All Blacks, having been involved as an assistant coach in Ireland and England victories over the Kiwis.

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“You need to be 100% at your best and you need to respect them totally, but at the same time respect yourself just as much. So yeah, we need to be ourselves this week.”

It will be intriguing to see what changes, if any, Farrell makes to his matchday 23 for this weekend.

ireland-fans-during-the-anthems The Aviva Stadium has sold out for the All Blacks clash. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Good performances across the board in the Japan game mean there is unlikely to be any great rejig, with the selection for last weekend clearly having been partly about building momentum into the All Blacks clash.

“We’re pretty fortunate that it looks like we’ve come through the game pretty good on the fitness front,” said Farrell on Saturday evening.

“A lot of the lads have put their hands up through performance.”

Whoever he selects, Farrell is keen to make the point that this week is all about Ireland.

“We want to put our own performance on the field and we won’t be concentrating solely on the All Blacks because if we do we’ll just be sat back on our heels and we know the outcome of the game then.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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