Dan Sheridan/INPHO Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.
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'We warmed-up on the bus and won the game easily. It’s just mentality'
Andy Farrell has impressively guided Ireland to within sight of a Grand Slam.

IRELAND’S BUS BEING late to Murrayfield back in 2017 rather unsurprisingly came up a few times this week.

In case you’ve forgotten, the Irish team bus was led by Scottish police on a different route than the one they usually took. Then when they arrived at the stadium, a bagpiper marched slowly in front of the bus to further delay their arrival.

Joe Schmidt’s side were less than 15 minutes but the Ireland boss refused to let it go after his side’s 27-22 defeat. So it was bound to come up this week, particularly given that so many of the same players will feature today.

Andy Farrell was Ireland’s defence coach back then and he learned from episodes like that. One of the biggest values he has pushed as head coach is Ireland being comfortable in adversity. In fact, he genuinely welcomes it and encourages his players to embrace it.

After the opening game of this championship in Wales, he joked about Ireland’s bus being a few minutes late. It turns out he has experience of the worst-case scenario in this regard.

“I was playing for Wigan for one game and we were stuck on the motorway, on the M62, going over the Pennines there and we had to get changed on the bus,” Farrell recalled this week.

“We ran out 10 minutes before kick-off, had a warm-up on the bus, finished the warm-up on the field, didn’t even go into the changing rooms, and won the game easily against a good Leeds side.

“It’s just mentality, isn’t it? It’s whatever you think.”

This is a brief insight into the bank of experiences and stories that Farrell can call on after a life in rugby, both league and union. He’s been there and seen that. Farrell was 16 when he made his Wigan debut. He was still just 18 for his first England cap. He never let up from there, winning two Man of Steel awards before switching to union, where he has done all his coaching.

rugby-st-helens-v-wiganfarrell-2 PA A 21-year-old Farrell celebrates success with Wigan. PA

He’s worked with the likes of Mark McCall, Stuart Lancaster, and Schmidt. Every minute of it has helped to produce the relatively unflappable Farrell we see guiding Ireland so impressively today. If his Ireland team can beat Scotland in Murrayfield this afternoon [KO 3pm, RTÉ], they can claim a Grand Slam at home against England next weekend. 

Farrell’s no-excuses mentality has been important so far in this Six Nations because Ireland have had late injury disruption thrown at them for all three games. He believes strong characters simply roll with those punches.

“What do you do? Feel sorry for yourself?” said Farrell.

“That doesn’t get you nowhere because it’s never going to stop. Adversity is never going to stop. I remember going to Murrayfield, being late on the bus, still stuck behind the bagpipes, all sorts of things going on on the pitch.

“It’s all part of the occasion, isn’t it? You’ve got to embrace all of that and relish it. It’s what top-level sport is all about.”

Farrell had a rocky start as Ireland boss, let’s not forget, but the work he was doing back in 2020 has clearly paid dividends since. It’s interesting that he doesn’t hold grudges against those who criticised his Ireland team back then. Farrell feels it was justified because they weren’t playing well.

Behind the scenes, he was chipping away with work that has proven key. He completely shifted Ireland’s tactical and technical approach after taking over. The results early on were disjointed and confused. The players looked uncomfortable with what was being asked of them. Farrell insisted that they stay the course and now Ireland’s attack is the slickest in the world.

He brought Paul O’Connell in as forwards coach at the start of 2021, a huge appointment. O’Connell’s influence cannot be overstated. Technically, tactically, and mentally, he is a totem.

Farrell convinced ex-team manager Mick Kearney to return to the set-up. He gets no headlines, but Kearney is a calming influence who helps with the human side. For Farrell, that’s as important as the actual rugby. The Ireland head coach has fostered an environment where they’re serious about their work but have the craic too.

michael-kearney Billy Stickland / INPHO Ireland team manager Mick Kearney. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Farrell also convinced the highly-regarded Gary Keegan to join full-time for last summer’s tour of New Zealand. The former Irish boxing guru had been in and out of camp in the couple of years before, but Farrell wanted his team to take the next step. Keegan has been a crucial figure in the set-up.

“We’re growing in the right direction in that regard,” is how Farrell put it when asked about Keegan’s influence.

And that’s the thing, Farrell recognises that Ireland are not the finished article. They haven’t won the trophies they want yet – a Six Nations title with a Grand Slam. A World Cup. That’s where they’re aiming.

Farrell is aware that sport throws up disappointment too. Perhaps Ireland face some of that at Murrayfield today. Even in that case, the Six Nations title would still be alive for them and a first championship success since 2018 is not something to sneer at.

But it’s hard to escape the feeling that they’re primed to seal this Slam.

They know all about the threat of Finn Russell and Huw Jones and Scotland’s improved forward pack. They understand that the Scots can secure the Triple Crown by winning today. There might be testing weather conditions this afternoon.

But Ireland have adapted to most challenges thrown at them so far. This Irish matchday 23 is deeply impressive on paper. That has translated into excellent performances on the pitch more often than not over the last two years.

Farrell has steered this Ireland ship with calm and control. They really should have the quality to take this Grand Slam hunt back to Dublin next weekend.


  • 15. Stuart Hogg
  • 14. Kyle Steyn
  • 13. Huw Jones
  • 12. Sione Tuipulotu
  • 11. Duhan van der Merwe
  • 10. Finn Russell
  • 9. Ben White 
  • 1. Pierre Schoeman
  • 2. George Turner
  • 3. Zander Fagerson
  • 4. Richie Gray
  • 5. Jonny Gray
  • 6. Matt Fagerson
  • 7. Jamie Ritchie (captain)
  • 8. Jack Dempsey


  • 16. Fraser Brown
  • 17. Jamie Bhatti
  • 18. Simon Berghan
  • 19. Scott Cummings
  • 20. Hamish Watson
  • 21. Ali Price
  • 22. Blair Kinghorn
  • 23. Chris Harris


  • 15. Hugo Keenan
  • 14. Mack Hansen
  • 13. Garry Ringrose
  • 12. Bundee Aki
  • 11. James Lowe
  • 10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
  • 9. Conor Murray 
  • 1. Andrew Porter
  • 2. Dan Sheehan
  • 3. Tadhg Furlong
  • 4. Iain Henderson
  • 5. James Ryan
  • 6. Peter O’Mahony
  • 7. Josh van der Flier
  • 8. Caelan Doris


  • 16. Rónan Kelleher
  • 17. Cian Healy
  • 18. Tom O’Toole
  • 19. Ryan Baird
  • 20. Jack Conan
  • 21. Jamison Gibson-Park
  • 22. Ross Byrne
  • 23. Robbie Henshaw

Referee: Luke Pearce [RFU].

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