Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Farrell and his Ireland players last weekend.
# Last Assignment
Ireland set to experiment against US after Farrell's men see off Japan
Gavin Coombes made his debut last weekend and more should follow this Saturday.

IRELAND CAMP HAS been a very different place over the last couple of weeks.

No Johnny Sexton, no Cian Healy, no Keith Earls. None of the seven Lions or the injured Andrew Porter. No Garry Ringrose, whose voice has grown within the group over the past season.

That’s plenty of experience and proven quality. Even just taking Sexton out of the equation leaves you without your captain, key tactician, and a CV including 99 Ireland caps and a World Rugby player of the year award.

In light of all of that, you can understand why Andy Farrell was so pleased with Saturday’s 39-31 win over Japan in Dublin. The Brave Blossoms are no joke and though Ireland made plenty of poor errors and lacked cohesion at times, they did enough to come away with victory and with new leaders having emerged.

“That’s why it has been so pleasing,” said Farrell. “It isn’t just Johnny. You look at Tadhg Furlong, he is a big personality. You look at Iain Henderson, he’s a big leader for us and Conor Murray has always got a presence.

“What I have been so impressed with is that the lads that normally get dragged along have realised that their role now is to become the people that have helped them in the past.

“And that has been very evident to see in the likes of Caelan [Doris], Hugo [Keenan], Jamison Gibson-Park, who is only young as far as his international career is concerned.

“Lads are getting more comfortable in the group. I thought within a 12-day turnaround, the long hard season that people have had – a tough old battle regarding provincial-wise, certainly over the last six or seven weeks where it was very stop-start – I thought everyone came together really well.

“It certainly wasn’t perfect, but there was an obvious togetherness there and that’s credit to everybody in the group.”

jacob-stockdale-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try Gary Carr / INPHO Ireland celebrate a try against Japan. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

Farrell praised his players for fixing their first-half restart and lineout issues, as well as upping the physicality and defensive accuracy in the second 40 minutes.

The Ireland head coach saw a “calm and controlled” team closing out the game when it could have got away from them in the face of the thrilling Japanese atacking play.

While Gavin Coombes got his Test debut off the bench, Farrell was also pleased to see Doris and Joey Carbery returning from injury to the international stage.

Carbery had to play most of the second half in midfield after Chris Farrell’s injury and he will pinpoint plenty of areas in which he can improve, but having the Munster man back in the mix is certainly welcome for head coach Farrell.

“He had a bit of a knock on his ribs in his last game [for Munster] as well and you saw him needing some attention there,” said Farrell.

“I thought he played really well. I’m sure he’s relieved to have got through a big game and managing a big game pretty well. He’s only going to get better from that experience.

“I have absolutely no doubt these three weeks of us being together will have whetted his appetite to make sure that he has a good summer and hits the ground running for what is a massive year next year.”

Farrell wasn’t drawn on whether Carbery will get another start against the US this coming weekend in the final fixture of Ireland’s season.

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joey-carbery Bryan Keane / INPHO Joey Carbery played his first Test since 2019. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

While the Ireland boss stressed that they must respect every opponent and also “respect ourselves” with team selection, he did say that it was likely the team for this clash with the Eagles would be experimental.

“That was more or less the plan anyway,” said Farrell. “We don’t often get this window to have a little bit of a look at people and give people a chance.

“Yeah, it’s always been in the plans to do that.”

Robert Baloucoune, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Paul Boyle, Peter Dooley, Ross Molony, Harry Byrne, and Fineen Wycherley are the remaining uncapped players in the Ireland squad and all would love a chance against the US.

“There’s a few young lads that would have been a bit surprised at what it takes to be in international rugby and trying to get up to speed within the first week,” said Farrell.

“Some lads have openly said that it was a little bit of a shock to them. They’re certainly more comfortable in their own skin after 12 days.

“I’m sure a few more days will do them all even more good so they can put their hand up for selection early in the week.”

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