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Farrell's reign must see change after Ireland deliver 'D game' in Tokyo

The Englishman now takes over and the 2023 World Cup has to be the primary focus.

YESTERDAY IN TOKYO was the end of the line with Ireland for Joe Schmidt, Rory Best, and Greg Feek.

The Andy Farrell era begins now and with his contract as head coach extending all the way to 2023 to include the next World Cup, building towards finally breaking Ireland’s miserable record at the tournament must be the primary goal.

It will be fascinating to see how the Englishman approaches the long-term job and how soon he begins to make changes in playing style and personnel.

tadhg-beirne-james-ryan-and-keith-earls-dejected Ireland had no answers for the brilliant All Blacks. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Farrell’s first campaign will be the 2020 Six Nations, which begins in 14 weeks’ time, and there will be clamour from the outside for a notable turnover.

Certainly, yesterday was the last World Cup for a handful of Ireland’s more experienced players. It’s difficult to see 34-year-old Johnny Sexton and 33-year-old Rob Kearney playing in another World Cup, while the injured Sean Cronin is also 33.

It remains to be seen how long 31-year-olds Cian Healy, John Ryan and Keith Earls play on for, while Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and Dave Kilcoyne are all 30 now. Each of these men will play on with Ireland shorter-term, of course, but we simply don’t know what Ireland will look like at the next World Cup.

Farrell has a young core to build around. James Ryan looks like a future Ireland captain.

While there was a notable absence of senior players in the mixed zone to front up to the media after Ireland’s 46-14 hammering, the mature 23-year-old Ryan was one of those who took on the miserable task of trying to put the humiliation into words.

“The next stage is winning a knock-out game at a World Cup and I think there’s no reason we can’t if you look at this group,” said Ryan.

“There are some young guys there, so I have full faith we will push on. Obviously it’s a long time now for another World Cup.”

Meanwhile, Garry Ringrose, Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, Luke McGrath, Josh van der Flier, Joey Carbery, Robbie Henshaw, Chris Farrell, Jordan Larmour and Jacob Stockdale are all 26 or younger.

ireland-fans-dejected There was misery for some of the Ireland supporters. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

They have now been part of yet another Ireland squad to fall at the quarter-final hurdle, but they will hope to drive on under Farrell and finally be the ones to break the Irish pain at the 2023 World Cup in France.

First, they will mourn yesterday’s defeat at the hands of New Zealand with the rest of Schmidt’s squad.

“We were so close and especially the three World Cups I’ve played in,” said Keith Earls afterwards in Tokyo. “We just seem to shoot ourselves in the foot in quarter-finals.

“Hopefully under Faz [Farrell], the lads can build on and hopefully get that one step further.”

Earls had hoped to be seeing his family in Japan over the next two weeks, but instead he will be flying home with the rest of the Ireland squad for that reunion, knowing that this may well have been his final World Cup.

“I didn’t really want to see them for a few weeks and I probably would have flown them out,” said Earls. “It’s tough going. Who knows, it could be my last World Cup.

“It’s deja vu all over again, we shot ourselves in the foot and New Zealand capitalised on it. It’s hard enough playing against them with our A game, never mind our D game.

“They’re a powerful side and the flow of pressure when they get going is hard to keep under wraps. [Aaron] Smith scored a good try around the ruck, then we made two mistakes for the next two tries. All of sudden, we’re chasing the game.”

conor-murray-and-rhys-ruddock-dejected-after-the-game Ireland simply must get better at dealing with World Cup pressure. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

We knew beforehand that Ireland simply couldn’t afford to get into that situation of chasing a game but their disastrous opening quarter left them 17-0 behind and, in truth, there was no coming back from there. 

The post-mortem will be painful and these Ireland players will welcome the chance to get back into action with their provinces with the Champions Cup kicking off next month, but they will carry the scars from Tokyo Stadium with them for a long time.

For those who were indeed playing in their final World Cup, that pain will gnaw away in the back of their minds when they get a moment to reflect on their careers. 

Farrell’s reign begins as Ireland arrive home from their latest disappointment and whatever happens next, making sure there is no more deja vu in 2023 must be the chief aim for the Englishman. Ireland’s World Cup tune simply has to change.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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