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Andy Farrell wants more from his Ireland team after Italy win

Farrell cut a relaxed figure in the post-match press conference in the wake of a stressful afternoon

25 February 2023; Ireland head coach Andy Farrell after the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Italy and Ireland at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Rúaidhrí O'Connor in

Ireland coach Andy Farrell said he was delighted with his team's character after they completed a difficult Italian Job in Rome.

Farrell cut a relaxed figure in the post-match press conference in the wake of a stressful afternoon, that was summed up by the television cameras capturing him nibbling at his fingertips at one stage of the second-half.

"Was I? Was I biting my nails? My mother's going to be mad," he said with a smile.

"It was a tough match, a proper Test match.

"You know when they get the field position that they crave that they're going to be able to win games.

"Which Irish fan wouldn't have been biting their nails when the cross-field kick went in and bounced very close. That's what Test matches are all about and that's how it should be."

The Six Nations front-runners were made to work hard for their 34-20 win at the Stadio Olimpico, with Mack Hansen's second try nine minutes from time finally putting the result beyond doubt.

The improving Italians caused Ireland no end of defensive issues, while Farrell was unhappy with his side's profligacy despite their five-try haul.

He knows they need to get better if they are to close out the title and go for a Grand Slam against Scotland and England, but he was pleased with their efforts.

"We need to take our chances," he said.

"Take all the emotion out of the game, I think Mack Hansen dropped a ball clean just before half-time, James Lowe dropped a ball over the try-line, we gave an intercept try away.

"So, we probably should have, could have, would have had a better lead going into half-time.

"You just know with the Italians; I was saying to (Italy coach) Kieran (Crowley) before the game, with the character they're showing they don't go away any more, do they?

"They continue to fight, we knew that was going to happen again in the second-half after the little bit of a piggy-back we gave them with the try before half-time.

"They showed the character of staying with it; certainly in the first two games of this competition anyway and so in that regard the best part of our game was staying in.

"The bench was excellent coming on. Nice and calm, accurate and added to the performance which was great.

"I thought we showed great character actually, to just keep playing our game.

"We found a way. With 15, 20 minutes to go we found a way to keep getting over the gainline, keep asking some questions and the final try we scored was a class, character-type try.

"The character of the last 20 minutes was really pleasing."

Farrell was impressed with what Italy brought to the party.

"We played against a bloody good side today, we've known and you guys have known that for a good while now," he said.

"Yes, we can say that we were off in certain parts or whatever, but like any Test match the opposition is going to have a say in how the game unfolds and they had a big say.

"I thought they was very resilient, it must have been a real tough battle in the forwards, they was solid where the maul was concerned, the goalline defence kept us out time and time again.

"On the back of that, they cut us open quite a few times with their attack.

"You talk about the game in that fashion, to come away with a bonus point win; we'll take that and move on."

Finlay Bealham's first-half injury was a black-spot for Ireland and the tighthead prop was wearing a knee-brace after the game.

Farrell explained that the Connacht man twisted his knee in the incident that saw him replaced by Tom O'Toole and a further update will come on Monday.

“He twisted his knee, obviously he went down straight away, which says something doesn’t it? He tried his best to fight on. He’s in a brace there in the changing room, he says he’s fine but he always says that, so we will assess him again in the morning," he said.

Injuries to Jamison Gibson-Park,Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose meant that Ireland had an unfamiliar combination from scrum-half to midfield.

He was pleased with Ross Byrne's effort at No 10, but said the centre partnership of Stuart McCloskey and Bundee Aki had a mixed outing.

"Ross did great, it was a big day for Ross who took responsibility to lead the side and he was very impressive during the week in how he ran the side," he said of the Leinster out-half.

"I'm delighted, he's come away with a nice win in the end.

“Some good, some improving to do (at centre).

"I thought defensively we were a bit off at times, certainly set-piece wise etc. Some brilliant in that regard. Stu and Bundee individually made some good inroads.

"It’s a new partnership coming together with a new half-back partnership. It’s always going to be tested under pressure when you are playing against a good side like that.

“But I thought they came through the game pretty well all in all. I thought we missed one or two chances that we need to review and realise, so there’s always room for improvement there.”

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