'They're pretty angry, grumbly, walking around like bears with sore heads'

Andy Farrell is looking for improvements from Ireland’s defence this weekend in Melbourne.

Murray Kinsella reports from Melbourne

DEFENCE COACH ANDY Farrell is expecting a full-blooded response from Ireland’s players in Saturday’s second Test against the Wallabies and indicated that the Irish coaching staff have to be wary about the squad over-working in the build-up.

Ireland, whose hotel is situated in the city centre, trained at St Kevin’s College in the Melbourne suburb of Toorak on Tuesday morning local time as they work towards rebounding from last weekend’s defeat in Brisbane.

Speaking this afternoon at the Grand Hyatt, Farrell said that some Ireland players would need to be “nursed through the start of the week” after the usual bumps and bruises from a Test match.

A view of Cian Healy during training Cian Healy during Ireland training today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

But Ireland expect all 32 of their players to be available for selection this weekend, with Keith Earls progressing through his return-to-play protocols “as should happen.”

Joe Schmidt is expected to name a strengthened starting team on Thursday and Farrell said the early response to Ireland’s first defeat in 13 games has been positive.

“Pretty much as you’d expect a good side to take a defeat like that,” said Farrell.

“They’re pretty angry, grumbly, walking around like bears with sore heads.

“We’ve had a couple of meetings and they understand the reasons why, as individuals and collectives, certain things happened.

“You forge a plan and once you have a plan in place you head forward. The key for the rest of the week is working out how to hold them back.”

The likes of Peter O’Mahony and Johnny Sexton will be important in Ireland finding that balance between working as hard as possible to correct their shortcomings and being fresh and mentally sharp on Saturday at AAMI Park.

Ireland conceded two tries to the Wallabies last weekend and Farrell wants more from the team in a defensive sense.

“Decent at times, but that’s not good enough at this level in the sense that they are a very, very good attacking outfit,” said Farrell when asked for his assessment of Ireland’s defence in the opening fixture of the three-game series.

“We knew that before the Test, we knew that they would be very hard to contain.

Johnny Sexton and Dan Leavy Ireland got back to work on the pitch today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It felt like we did that by and large but you’ve got to be consistent with it. They hit you on the break very well, they play quick, especially at the breakdown, etc.

“We’ve things to work on but by and large to keep them to a couple of tries – albeit get away with a few that were disallowed – isn’t too bad because Australia are pretty used to scoring tries.

“We need to do better at the weekend, there’s no doubt about that.”

Dealing with the aerial threat of Israel Folau, who was superb in the air in Brisbane, will be a key part of Ireland’s defensive focus this week.

While Farrell acknowledged that the Wallabies fullback is difficult to beat in one-on-one aerial situations, he believes Ireland can make life more difficult for him.

“Obviously, they had a plan and it was a great plan and they backed themselves with it,” said Farrell. “Is it a 50-50 when the ball’s in the air with him? Probably not, he’s so good at it.

“But there are certain things that we can do with it. You can say that you can get pressure on the kicker and we can, but there are times when they are so deep that you can’t get there.

“But it was the accuracy of how we got into the air sometimes, we let him dominate the space more than he should. He had it a little bit too much his own way.

“They position him very well and their attacking kicking game is in accordance with that. We can recognise it better and make it more of a contest.

“Is it 50-50? Probably not, but we can make sure we’re around for the scraps if not.”

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