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'I back the players to feel what's right' - Farrell critical of Ireland's execution

The Ireland head coach was frustrated with his team’s inability to convert visits to the French 22 into points.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IRELAND BOSS ANDY Farrell says he had no issue with his players’ decision-making around penalties against France but he was critical of their execution during key moments of the 35-27 defeat.

An early decision to have a 55-metre penalty attempt through Conor Murray appeared to indicate that Ireland would pursue a strategy of taking all available shots at goal, as a win on a seven-point margin would have handed them the Six Nations title.

However, Ireland turned down an opportunity to kick at goal late in the first half as they trailed 17-13, instead kicking down the right-hand touchline and looking for a try, only to be turned over inside the French 22.

caelan-doris-dejected-after-the-game Ireland were left dejected in Paris. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Asked what Ireland’s pre-match plan had been, Farrell said he had given his players the freedom to make decisions with these penalties.

“The plan is pretty simple, it’s the feel and flow of the game,” said Farrell, “and the guys out there have that feel and flow.

“Conor fancied himself [with the early penalty]. Even though it was a long-range kick, he’d been banging them over for fun in the warm-up and he backed himself to do that.

“You’re probably getting to the point just before half-time whether to go for posts or go to the corner.

“I back the players to feel what’s right, feel the flow of the game, and I suppose everyone would judge the decision what’s right and what’s wrong.

“But I would more go down the line that once you make a decision it’s how you execute that.

“Those are the bits I’d be critical of.”

Indeed, that was what a dejected Farrell focused on post-match in Paris. 

He believes his team created ample opportunities to win the game but didn’t execute in the key moments.

“I think there were enough opportunities there for us to win the game and we certainly weren’t clinical enough with the opportunities that we had.

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tadgh-beirne-dejected Tadhg Beirne after being replaced in the second half. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“If you don’t take your chances in big games like this, you come unstuck eventually. It’s an obvious thing to say but we had enough entries into the French 22 and didn’t come away with the points.

“It’s as simple as that really.

“At half-time the chat was about belief, it was a little bit off, and obviously they scored just after half-time which wasn’t great. But we killed our own momentum at times and that stopped the fluidity.

“The errors we made were across the board, it wasn’t just one area but being clinical in the last third was the main point.”

Farrell refused to criticise Wayne Barnes’ decision not to award Ireland a penalty try in the first half when he sin-binned France fullback Anthony Bouthier for deliberately slapping the ball out of play, instead honing in on Ireland’s shortcomings.

“I actually thought at half-time we were at 80%, not quite 100% at it fully and believing,” said Farrell.

“That’s what I’m saying about opportunities close to the line, and not quite getting there with our rucking, collision work. I thought it was ok at times, but you’ve got to make your own luck in games against teams like that.

“We didn’t 100% go for it as far as accuracy and physicality, we could have come away with more points in that first-half. At half-time, you try to correct a few things and give belief but they scored that try.

“There were quite a few big moments in that game, we had a lineout on their line and came away with nothing at 28-20.

“The set-piece a couple of times, we spilled a few balls, missed touch a few times, there’s an array of things that sap you and give energy to the opposition.” 

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Murray Kinsella

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