Conor Murray and Finlay Bealham.
# The Boss
'They were outstanding' - Farrell praises Murray and Bealham for stepping up
The Ireland head coach was very pleased with his side’s good start to the Six Nations.

ANDY FARRELL COULDN’T resist a joke at his own expense.

Johnny Sexton was discussing how Ireland’s coaches had hammered home the importance of discipline at half-time in Cardiff, where they led 27-3 at that stage. 

The Irish captain recounted how Ireland then went out for the second half and gave up a string of penalties.

“Good coaching… they all listened very well,” interjected Farrell with a wry smile.

That third quarter was a frustration for the Ireland boss, of course, but today’s Six Nations opener left Farrell with another achievement on his coaching CV.

Ireland hadn’t won a Six Nations game in Cardiff since 2013 but came away with a bonus-point 34-10 victory this time around. The performance had imperfections but Farrell deserved to be a happy man as his side underlined their Grand Slam credentials.

This was a week that could have got away from them. Ireland lost Tadhg Furlong to an injury setback when he had been in line to return, then starting scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and replacement prop Cian Healy were ruled out soon before kick-off.

There was also the fact that the team bus was a few minutes late arriving at the stadium due to the traffic in Cardiff. We know how late buses have thrown Ireland before, but Farrell welcomes these disruptions. He genuinely seems to enjoy them.

“I was thinking, ‘This would be great if we were 15 minutes late. That would really test us,’” said Farrell this evening.

The bonus-point win left him very pleased.

“As we all know, this is a really tough place to start the campaign,” said Farrell. “But the good thing about it, in my opinion, there’s a lot of things we could have used as an excuse over the last 12 days, but I said to you in Portugal that our preparation had been top drawer. It really has. We got what we deserved at the end of the day.”

a-view-of-a-scrum Laszlo Geczo / INPHO A scrum at the Principality Stadium. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Farrell had praise for the men who were brought into the starting team due to the injuries, with Conor Murray slotting in at scrum-half and delivering a strong performance, while Finlay Bealham won a key scrum penalty as he made his first Six Nations start.

“I was delighted for them,” said Farrell. “I thought they were both outstanding.

“Conor controlled the game really well, like we knew he would. I think the game suited Finlay, he did excellent certainly in the bread and butter stuff in the scrum.

“I think he was aggressive in that regard and the rest of his game was spot on as well. So, again, there’s a lot of trust there. It was nice to see.”

He was happy with Stuart McCloskey too after retaining the Ulster man at inside centre, although there was praise for Bundee Aki off the bench as his replacement too.

“He [McCloskey] was good, he was strong. He broke a few tackles. He was being himself. He was looking for another opportunity and he knew that this was a big one for him. He played well.

“I also thought our bench did really well when he came on, added a lot tempo into our game. It was nice to get Bundee back going as well.”

Farrell wasn’t burying his head in the sand with regard to Ireland’s errors and poor discipline before half-time and then for the third quarter though.

“We kept giving them access, it’s pretty simple, though our own fault,” said Farrell. “It’s something that we constantly try to get better at. 

“We always know that in international rugby, especially with a side like Wales, a good side, I thought they were good today. I thought they were strong, aggressive, punched hard, and offered some threat.

andrew-porter-and-mack-hansen-celebrate-winning Dan Sheridan / INPHO Mack Hansen and Andrew Porter after Ireland's win. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“They’re always going to have a purple patch for 20 minutes, it’s something that we need to nip in the bud a bit quicker, but rolling with that was impressive.”

It’s on to France in Dublin next Saturday now and it will be interesting to learn more about the injury situation. Furlong was with the team in Cardiff and hopes to recover from his calf issue, while Farrell said they will know more about Gibson-Park and Healy tomorrow. Sexton declared himself fit for next weekend.

Regardless of the injury situation, Farrell will be looking at the positives after a good start.

“If you’d have given us a bonus-point win here at the start of the competition, we’d have probably snatched your hand off but at the same time, the best thing about it is that there’s plenty to do and fix and get better with.

“So it’s not a bad place to be.” 

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