Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Next Game

'Respect' - Farrell explains Ireland picks as Sexton plays down record talk

The Ireland boss wants to keep building momentum in his first-choice team.

IF ANYTHING, ANDY Farrell and Johnny Sexton seemed to be a little bemused by the number of questions regarding the composition of the Ireland team to face Tonga this weekend in the World Cup.

The idea of Ireland rotating a bit more after last weekend’s win over Romania is something Farrell considered but in the end, it’s arguable that only Jamison Gibson-Park and Dan Sheehan are missing from the first-choice Irish team.

Gibson-Park is not part of the matchday 23 after starting last weekend, while Sheehan is only just back in full training after recovering from a foot injury.

Otherwise, there is no holding back from Ireland. There are four personnel changes in total for this second Pool B clash and Farrell is essentially going full-strength. He has never had much time for worrying about the risk of injuries.

“A bit of continuity from last week, it’s a different game, a different challenge, Tonga, respecting the opposition is absolutely at the forefront of our minds, respecting the competition, but more so respecting ourselves,” said Farrell of his picks.

“Every game is of the same importance for us and a strong side is what we’ve got anyway within the squad of 33, as I’ve explained last week, so here we go again.

“It’s a little bit different when you’ve played one game and your recovery is different and you’re rowing into the next week and how we’ve handled that has been pretty important as well.”

Farrell did indicate that he and his assistants had discussed the possibility of more rotation this week, but he underlined that he feels this is the best Ireland team for the game against Tonga. He wants his team to build momentum.

“There’s always temptation because as far as selection is concerned we go through every different type of permutation, but at the end of the day it’s what is right for the team,” said Farrell.

conor-murray-and-andy-farrell Conor Murray with Andy Farrell. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s finding form – that side that played last week hadn’t played together before, so we get to roll onto this one. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, really in some circumstances, but the only thing that I care about is winning this weekend because the points that are on offer is exactly the same as what’s coming down the line.

“I suppose it’s as simple as that and you look at what could happen, what does happen to people in training, you give people a so-called rest and you’ve seen people… I mean, we had Robbie [Henshaw] pull out of our captain’s run last week and miss the game, you have players now getting injured in training and missing the competition.

“People could be rested this weekend and be ill for next weekend etc., so we’d like to go with what we’ve got – a fit side, a good side, and build the momentum throughout the competition.”

Sitting alongside Farrell, Ireland captain Sexton was of a similar mindset as his head coach.

Asked if he was happy not to be wrapped in cotton wool for this weekend, Sexton underlined the challenge that’s directly in front of Ireland.

“Tonga are a really good team and they have got some really, really good players,” said Sexton.

“They’ve had a massive boost with the players who have come back so some of the questions aren’t really reflecting the way we’re preparing and the way we’re talking within camp.

“So we’re expecting a very tough game against top-class opposition with very good coaches. It’s going to be a tough game.”

Sexton said he didn’t need to do any convincing when it came to Farrell picking him to start. With his retirement now looming, Sexton wants to play every minute.

jonathan-sexton Sexton at Ireland training this week. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“I just rock up to training and do my best,” said the 38-year-old. “Obviously I want to play, I mean when you only have a certain amount of games left of course you want to play.

“But it’s what is right for the team, what is right for different individuals and that was probably all taken into consideration but no, I didn’t have to do much talking.”

If Sexton scores 10 or more points against Tonga, he will become Ireland’s all-time leading points scorer, surpassing Ronan O’Gara’s tally of 1,083.

But the Ireland leader said he hasn’t been thinking about that.

“It’s not something that comes into my head too often,” said Sexton.

“Obviously, I was unaware how close I was after the game last week until I came into the press conference and so now I’m getting reminded again.

“Look, it will be a very special moment individually but no one else will really care, none of my team-mates are… I won’t be making decisions off the back of it.

“I want to win the game, I want to progress further in the competition and that is the only thing going through my head at the moment.”

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel