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'A Six Nations is not won on the first day' - Farrell's Ireland turn to France test

An opening-round defeat away to Wales has Ireland on the back foot.

Ireland came up short in Cardiff.
Ireland came up short in Cardiff.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Updated Feb 8th 2021, 8:23 AM

FOR ANDY FARRELL, that must have felt like the strangest Test match yet.

An emotional rollercoaster for Ireland, this one included an early red card to dampen hopes, then a very impressive second-quarter response, followed by a very poor third-quarter showing, then a late glimmer of hope that ended in crushing fashion.

There were excellent individual performances from the likes of Hugo Keenan, Tadhg Beirne, Robbie Henshaw, Andrew Porter, Iain Henderson, and Cian Healy.

But then there were costly errors from senior figures like Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, and Keith Earls pockmarking the display too. 

There were fluid attacking passages even with 14 men, some lovely interplay between forwards and backs, and several muscular defensive moments. Then there were bad decisions, inaccurate execution, and some costly defensive lapses.

This wild, brutal game – five players departing with head injuries was genuinely disturbing – had talking points aplenty but the main fact is that Ireland are off to a losing start in the 2021 Six Nations.

Post-match, you could sense the uncertainty from Farrell as he attempted to sum it up, coming down on the side of simple disappointment at what felt like a missed chance even after Peter O’Mahony had been red-carded in the 14th minute.

“I’m just gutted that we didn’t back it up with the win because it was there to be had,” said Farrell. “There are various different reasons we’ll talk about after we review the game.

“We didn’t get to celebrate what would have been a famous victory… because some of the efforts collectively and individually were immense.”

Ireland’s most telling errors in the second half came in their kicking game. Johnny Sexton missed touch with one penalty and kicked out on the full on another occasion.

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andy-farrell Ireland are now fighting to keep their championship hopes alive. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Keith Earls kicked out on the full after Ireland had played the ball back into their own 22 before Louis Rees-Zammit’s try, while there was the nightmare moment with the last play of the game for Billy Burns.

Though Ireland at least picked up a losing bonus point, it will be difficult to shake the regrets and frustrations of Cardiff but they must swiftly steady themselves for the visit of France to Dublin this coming Sunday in round two of the Six Nations.

The French ran seven tries past a poor Italy team on the opening weekend and have proven their quality over the course of the last year.

Captain Johnny Sexton and second row James Ryan should both be major doubts this week after head injuries forced them off against Wales and Farrell will naturally consider other changes to his starting XV after this defeat.

The visit of les Bleus was always going to be big but it takes on even greater importance now as Ireland look to keep themselves in the championship hunt.

“I was saying to the lads that they’ll feel sorry for themselves or a couple of hours and bring the best versions of themselves into work tomorrow because there’s a lot of us in the group that have been involved in enough Six Nations to know that a Six Nations is not won on the first day,” said Farrell.

“From here on in, we have to be more clinical and give the performances of our lives to be in the battle to win the competition. It’s as simple as that.

“We have a very good French side coming over to the Aviva, and we’ll be back ourselves against anyone there.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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