'The pleasing thing is we can be better' - Ireland boss Andy Farrell

Farrell and his captain, Johnny Sexton, are determined that Ireland will keep improving.

Tadhg Furlong and Jack Conan celebrate.
Tadhg Furlong and Jack Conan celebrate.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND HEAD COACH Andy Farrell and captain Johnny Sexton said that their team can continue to get better even after a dominant 29-20 win over the All Blacks.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of tonight’s thrilling victory in Dublin is that Ireland really could have won by plenty more.

They had a host of chances in the first half but somehow went into half time 10-5 down. Nonetheless, Ireland’s relentlessly aggressive and ambitious approach paid dividends in the second half as they finished over the top of the Kiwis.

This makes it seven wins on the trot for Farrell’s Ireland – taking in victories over England, Scotland, Japan, and New Zealand – while they have clearly made great strides of improvement in terms of the quality and consistency of their performances.

All of that said, this is a November Test window and there are no trophies on offer. Ireland already have the 2023 World Cup in their sights and they will also be aiming to improve on this year’s third-place finish in the Six Nations when the 2022 championship rolls around.

They took great pride in dominating the All Blacks tonight but both Farrell and Sexton were keen to stress that this team can keep improving.

“We’ve already identified that this is the start of a two-year journey and we’ve said that,” said Sexton. “This is the start and it’s important that we continually improve.

“Obviously, this being a peak is no good to anybody. I think there is room for improvement individually. There’s room for improvement from that first half, doing things to make sure we take our chances because we could have scored a few tries in the first half that would have counted.

james-lowe-celebrates-after-the-game James Lowe celebrates Ireland's third win over the All Blacks. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“There’s a lot of room for improvement – we need to keep our feet on the ground and keep driving this. There’s a lot of young guys, very young – a lot younger than me – and they need to realise that this is still a start and we need to keep building.

“The great thing about beating New Zealand is that it gives a lift to the country but you don’t win a trophy and you don’t have something to show for it, as such. As happy as we are, we need to push on.”

Farrell is of the same mind.

“The pleasing thing is we can be better,” he said. “We created a good few chances that we either got pulled back for or didn’t quite grasp. Just keeping the concentration levels was pretty impressive.”

Farrell was pleased with how calm his players remained despite the frustration of the first half, in which they spent six minutes camped in the New Zealand 22 but only managed to score five points through James Lowe.

Ireland’s policy of going for tries rather than three points ultimately paid off as they scored two tries in swift succession after half time through Rónan Kelleher and Caelan Doris.

“It’s something that we’ve done before, not just against the All Blacks,” said Farrell of the way Ireland chased tries.

“We’ve won a game or two like that against them but we’ve done it to other teams as well. The game is all about creating opportunities and also getting a bit of field position and territory, etc.

“We created quite a bit of options, certainly in the first half, did we get the reward for it? It could have been better and we could have been more clinical but the opportunities were being created and it allowed us to keep a hold of the game.”

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jamison-gibson-park-celebrates-after-the-game-with-his-daughter-isabella-and-iris Jamison Gibson-Park with his daughters, Isabella and Iris. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The immediate future looks exciting for this Ireland team with younger players like Kelleher, Doris, and Hugo Keenan continuing to shine alongside experienced figures like Sexton. 

Farrell is keeping a level head as he looks for his team to carry their momentum into next Sunday’s clash with Argentina, for which Ireland are expected to change their starting XV.

He pointed to the All Blacks as an example of what Ireland are aiming for.

“The toughest thing in sport, certainly at the top level, is being consistent and when you’re chasing something down, you’ve always got a goal in sight and the hardest thing when you keep playing well is to keep getting better and that’s why we respect them so much,” said Farrell.

“They’ve been at the top for so long and everyone sees it as an opportunity to play against the best team in the world and test themselves.

“Time and time again, they keep coming up with the goods so the test for us has been. It’s what we’ve been talking about in the last couple of years – it’s consistency of performance.

“There’s been a few good ones and we need to back up that performance with a good one next week.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from the Aviva Stadium

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