Robbie Henshaw was with Ireland last week. Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO
Italian Job

'Continuity is important' - Farrell warns that Ireland face tough task in Rome

Robbie Henshaw rejoined the Ireland squad last week as his recovery continued.

IT’S A GOOD measure of how tough a game it was in Dublin on Saturday that only 10 of Ireland’s matchday 23 were able to head upstairs for commercial duties in the Aviva Stadium afterwards.

The other 13 were battered and bruised in the changing room below following a game against France that had a ball-in-play time of 46 minutes and 10 seconds. That’s an enormous amount of rugby, especially with the collisions so big and the pace so high. It was exhausting even just to watch.

“People say, ‘Why is there a fallow week in Test rugby?’” said Ireland head coach Andy Farrell after his side’s 32-19 victory.

“You can see the reason why after a contest like that.”

The upcoming weekend off is timely for Ireland after two big bonus-point wins against Wales and France. Their injury list has mounted over the past fortnight, so the chance for a breather is welcome.

Not that Ireland will rest on their laurels. After a couple of days off, Farrell will have his key men back in camp on Wednesday – others will play for their provinces in the URC this weekend – and they’ll train against the Ireland U20s later this week as attention turns towards a trip to face Italy on 25 February.

With two wins from two and 10 match points from a possible 10, it has been the perfect start to the Six Nations for Ireland. There’s no doubt that this team is chasing a Grand Slam and it’s a realistic possibility.

The Italy fixture always brings with it calls for Ireland to throw lots of younger players into the mix, but Farrell warned that it’s a game they can’t take for granted. Having pushed France very close in Rome in the first round of this Six Nations, the Italians had a good second half yesterday in their defeat to England at Twickenham. Italy are more dangerous than ever.

Farrell also highlighted that many of his players will need to keep game rhythm given that they haven’t played a huge amount this season.

“It’s a tough one for us because every Test match is always a pressurised situation anyway but they’re a good side, they’re playing some unbelievable rugby as we know through the autumn and they’ve started like that again,” said Farrell.

“The headlines are going to be that somebody has ‘slipped up in Italy’ but they’re earning the right to win those games.

andy-farrell-celebrates-after-the-game Farrell after Ireland's win over France. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“When you throw into the mix a lack of game time for some of our lads and there’s a fallow week into that game and then into another fallow week [after it], continuity is pretty important as well.”

Farrell confirmed that Robbie Henshaw rejoined the Ireland group last week as his recovery from wrist surgery last November continues. Henshaw is clearly nearing a return to action and it remains to be seen whether he makes his comeback with Leinster or Ireland.

Meanwhile, Dan Sheehan, Jamison Gibson-Park, and Cian Healy are sidelined with hamstring injuries, while Tadhg Furlong is still rehabbing his calf issue. Farrell said he may be able to count on a couple of them for the Italy game.

“One or two of them might be a stretch, but one or two of them could make it as well,” said the Ireland boss.

Unfortunately, second row Tadhg Beirne looks set for a spell on the sidelines after suffering an ankle injury against the French. He was pictured on crutches and in a moon boot after the game, while Farrell admitted that it wasn’t looking good for Beirne.

There will be concern over captain Johnny Sexton too after he was forced off 48 minutes into Ireland’s win. Sexton himself reported that it had been an impact injury when massive France prop Uini Atonio landed on him but he seemed upbeat about getting back on the pitch soon. Ireland are due to give an update on their entire squad this afternoon.

Having won 13 games in a row at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland are now focused on another win on the road as the Italian clash looms. They’re clearly the number-one team in the world and are heavily fancied for a Grand Slam.

Farrell invites the pressure that comes with Ireland’s status.

“We’ve not shied away from the fact that it’s just about us and improving our game, and embracing the fact that there’s a bit of a bigger target on your back,” he said.

“And that can only be good for us because the more different types of situations that we can put ourselves in, especially when the opposition is going to be a step above normality, it’s great for us to test ourselves and see whether we can deal with that type of pressure.”

Get instant updates on your province on The42 app. With Laya Healthcare, official health and wellbeing partner to Leinster, Munster and Connacht Rugby.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel