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Peter O'Mahony with Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.
Peter O'Mahony with Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

'It's about consistency at this level to prove your worth' - Farrell sees sense in new IRFU contracts

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton and Peter O’Mahony both agreed new deals this week.
Mar 5th 2021, 6:30 AM 8,888 4

THE COURSE OF Ireland’s upcoming games against Scotland and England will ultimately define this Six Nations for Andy Farrell, but for now, at least, the Ireland head coach will be reasonably happy with his lot.

Farrell felt there was much to like in the performances against Wales and France last month, a brace of defeats followed by an encouraging blow-out against a very poor Italian team in Rome.

He will also be grateful to see a number of his key men agree to new central contracts with the IRFU.

Before last weekend’s thrashing of Italy the IRFU announced a new contract for Iain Henderson. That news has been followed by confirmation this week of a one-year extension for captain Johnny Sexton and a two-year deal for Peter O’Mahony. 

“It’s fantastic news,” Farrell said. “(They are) two very important pieces of our jigsaw going forward for all sorts of reasons, and they’re delighted to get their contracts over the line and settle their futures, and we’re even more so delighted for them.”

While Sexton’s contract was widely anticipated, there was some surprise to see O’Mahony get a two-year extension. 

The flanker will be 33 by the time his new deal expires and there is no shortage of talent available in the backrow. However, O’Mahony has continued to be a key part of Farrell’s squad over the last year and came into the current Six Nations in superb form.

As head coach, Farrell is involved in the discussions when it comes to handing out those golden central contracts. There are a number of factors that come into play, but nothing holds as much weight as a proven body of work.

“Well, to get a central contract. If you look at the history, you show continuity at this level to be a top class international player,” Farrell said.

“That’s the remit that everyone understands, and that’s what we see to. Just because somebody pops up and plays four or five games that are really good, as far as international rugby is concerned it’s about consistency at this level to prove your worth.

“I suppose that’s how we’ve always worked and how we’ll continue to.”

Farrell is hoping for more good news on the contract front soon, and says he never feared losing key players despite the difficult financial situation facing the IRFU.

“No, I wasn’t worried. I was speaking to the guys the whole time. They’re as honest as they come and I’m exactly the same with them.

“If there’s any uncertainty I suppose I would have been worried but I don’t think there has been. I think things have taken a little bit of time but there’s been no panic from the IRFU’s point of view or from the lads’ point of view.”

Farrell will have also seen his own name in headlines this week, with the Ireland head coach once again linked with a role in Warren Gatland’s coaching team for this summer’s British and Irish Lions tour, should it go ahead. That tour could clash with the IRFU’s own plans for a tour to the Pacific Islands.

Yesterday, Farrell said he hopes to have more clarity on the situation by the end of the month, and added that he would see obvious benefits in accepting any offer from Gatland.

“You’ve got to ask, at the end of the day, whether you can go on both tours, you know? That decision will be out of my hands.

andy-farrell-speaks-to-the-players-at-half-time Farrell was involved with the Lions in 2017 (pictured) and 2013. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“But, at the same time, you would say that there are fors and againsts, isn’t there? On both sides…. Having somebody on the Irish management on the Lions management, is that a benefit to our lads going?

“Our lads going, what type of age group are those boys that are going on that tour. Are they the next generation now for Irish rugby?

“What does the Irish tour look like? What does the Lions tour look like?

“There’s all sorts of things to do, that’s why I’ve said all along my only remit will be to do what’s right for Irish rugby.”

For now Farrell is more concerned with the 14 March trip to play Scotland, which is followed by a home game against England just six days later.

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The Scotland game will come a month after Gregor Townsend’s side last played, due to the postponement of their round three clash with France. 

In that regard Ireland will consider themselves to be carrying the momentum heading to Murrayfield after the encouraging display against the ragged Italians. 

Farrell is currently working with a condensed 26-man squad in a two day mini-camp, having released 13 players to play in the Pro14 derbies this weekend.

And he says the approach for Scotland will include encouraging his team to play with that same confidence in attack so evident in Rome.

“Yeah, I’ve read that, that people said we played with ambition (against Italy). I mean if you look at the game, certainly in the first half, with how we started there’s nothing that ambitious about throwing the ball over the top at a line-out, as in it would be one of the simplest line-outs that you’ve got.

“But it’s effective to get over the gain line and on the back of that we kept on getting over the gain line, so some nice, direct, punching play that’s nice and connected, and the backs finished a couple of those moves off very well.

“The game doesn’t change. It’s about navigating your way through contact so that you can get a flow into your game, and when you’ve got a flow into your game you’ve got to stay connected and keep pushing like we did.

“And hopefully we can be just as ambitious in Murrayfield as well.”

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey chat deteriorating player-referee relationships, perception vs reality with Ireland, initiation songs, a potential ‘home’ Lions tour, and this weekend’s interpros:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ciarán Kennedy


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