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Andy Farrell: ‘There are bigger things than finishing the Six Nations’

Ireland coach says the health and safety of the country has to take priority over the completion of a rugby tournament.

Ireland rugby coach Andy Farrell.
Ireland rugby coach Andy Farrell.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Updated Oct 16th 2020, 1:10 PM

ANDY FARRELL, THE Ireland rugby coach, has said he will accept a government decision to shut down sport in the interests of public health.

Speaking in response to NPHET’s recommendation that the country moves to Level 5 for the next six weeks – Farrell, whose team returned to training camp this week, insisted he will heed whatever advice the team receives from government authorities.

Under current Level 5 guidelines, professional sport can continue. Should this situation change, Farrell will not object to any decision imposed on his team.

“There are bigger things than finishing the Six Nations,” Farrell said. “If that is what the government feels is needed for the health and the safety of the country, then we are more than happy to follow that.

“We have to do everything we possibly can (in our training camp) to make sure we keep our side of things nice and clean. After that, we will wait for their advice.”

Despite the uncertainty hanging over the tournament’s resumption, Farrell is insistent that the players remain motivated. “They have been brilliant in camp since they came in here,” he said. “We are pretty lucky that our boys have been in a similar type of process at their clubs for some time now – so they are used to living with the virus and trying to cope with it.

“We have protocols in place and we need to adhere to that.

“We are doing that at this moment in time and we would like to continue with that as we would really  like to get off the ground against Italy get the game played if at all possible.

“If we were able to play the games, it would be a nice tonic for the whole country to see international rugby back on their screens again – and we would want to put on a good show for the people of Ireland. But as I said before, there are bigger things than rugby at the moment, so we will take the (government) advice and do the right thing by the country.”

Should the matches against Italy and France proceed then it is likely that Johnny Sexton and Andrew Porter will feature after both players came through a training session yesterday unscathed.

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andrew-porter-with-jonathan-sexton-and-his-son-luca-after-the-game Sexton (right) and Porter (left) came through yesterday's session unscathed. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“They will have a decent old session tomorrow and we will see how they come through that,” Farrell said. “At this moment in time, they are absolutely fine.”

He has also been impressed by the attitude of new boys Shane Daly, Hugo Keenan and Will Connors who each came through the IRFU’s Sevens programme and who have shown superb form for their provinces, justifying their call up.

“They bring a lot to the squad,” Farrell said, “you get an energy and a fantastic attitude from all of them and that is what is needed if you want to climb the international ladder.

“Their attitude has been first class and you know, it is a difficult world coming in to an international camp for the first time.

“They are obviously behind the 8-ball because they are coming into a squad where there are a lot of players who really know the set-up – whereas this is new to them.

“But they are adapting unbelievably well and the potential is there for everyone to see.”

One man missing from the squad is John Cooney, the Ulster scrum half, who was controversially omitted. But Farrell insists the door is still open. “I think John Cooney is a great player; Luke McGrath is too. I know they are desperate to play for their country and rightly so.

“But as head coach, you have to make the call. You look at things when you make the selection, form, attitude, what the last seven months have been like and how they have come back from lockdown.

“My job is to select a team that keeps everyone on their toes because competition for places has got to be one of the key factors going forward for this team. Some people are going to lose out but I hope they come back bigger and stronger.”

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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