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'It is going to be a war of attrition. We have not won there since 2013'

Andy Farrell says criticism of Welsh team is unfair.

Farrell is expecting a war of attrition.
Farrell is expecting a war of attrition.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

ANDY FARRELL HAS expressed bemusement at the criticism delivered to the Welsh rugby team. Ahead of Sunday’s Six Nations opener, a number of pundits – both in Ireland and the UK – have downplayed Wales’s chances of rediscovering their 2019 form in time for this tournament.

“It pisses me off, it is disrespectful,” was former Welsh prop, Adam Jones’s reaction to some of the more hysterical commentary. Farrell, meanwhile, could not have been more diplomatic about Sunday’s opponents when he spoke to the media this afternoon. Asked if he thought the Welsh were a spent force, he instantly replied: “I don’t believe it for one second.”

“Look, the boys are very familiar with everyone who is in the Welsh squad,” the Ireland coach continued. “They play against them all of the time. We know what top performers they can be when they are under pressure. They are an experienced side, who have been in both good, and difficult, positions before.

“Within the two camps, we know the truth; that it is going to be a war of attrition. We have not won there since 2013 which says a lot and we are expecting Wales to be 100 per cent at their best. We have played them at their best before and come unstuck. So we will plan accordingly.

“It doesn’t really matter what goes on in the papers, or in the news, in the coming days the game will still be the same. Both teams will kick off, try and get into the ascendancy, try and get a foothold in the game, through the areas that does that for them, set-piece, physicality or line-speed. Once that whistle goes, the game is just the same. It means a lot to both sides. It will be a tough old battle.”

Certainly Wayne Pivac’s selection backed up that theory, particularly the reunion of their teak-tough back-row: Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau.

dan-lydiate Lydiate is part of a dynamic back-row. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Add in the return of Adam Beard in the second row to partner Alun Wyn Jones, not to mention their front row combo of Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis and there is a case to be made for the Welsh.

Until that is, you look at the respective qualities on the bench, Ireland having the luxury of bringing in Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Dave Kilcoyne and Jordan Larmour whereas Wales are struggling for credible pack reinforcements outside of Josh Navidi.

“That side is a strong one,” said Farrell.

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Then again, you would expect him to say as much.

Of less concern to the coach was the fear that Josh Adams’ return for a training session following his breach of protocol. “All teams are getting tested twice a week,” said Farrell. “I suppose you cannot get more stringent than that.”

Regarding his own side’s selection, Farrell outlined precisely why he opted for James Lowe over Larmour and Andrew Conway on the wing; and Josh Van Der Flier over Will Connors in the backrow.

“James is a great player who is right for this game,” said Farrell. “He has been in great form in training. This is a strong side, a strong 23, one that is rearing to go at the start of this competition.

“We have liked what we have seen from all the squad over the last 10 days. Josh has a fantastic running game; he made some brilliant impacts for us in the autumn (internationals). We feel his all-round game makes him the one to go for, for us this weekend.”

Originally published at 13.01

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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