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Andy Farrell warns Irish players not to get sucked into ‘circus’ around Grand Slam chase

Head coach wants his team to handle the occasion at the Aviva Stadium by playing with accuracy and precision.

Loving life in Ireland: Irish head coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Rúaidhrí O'

Andy Farrell wants his players to produce a performance that will deliver a fourth Grand Slam for Ireland and says the key to that success is steering clear of the hype surrounding tomorrow’s clash with England.

The head coach, who yesterday recalled Jamison Gibson-Park at scrum-half with Robbie Henshaw and Ryan Baird coming into the team for the injured Garry Ringrose and Iain Henderson, says he wants his team to handle the occasion at the Aviva Stadium by playing with accuracy and precision.

“That’s all that matters really,” he said.

“All this stuff that you guys (in the media) are going to be writing over the next 48 hours, it all becomes part of the circus, doesn’t it? Managing all that.

“In reality, anyone who’s ever played in a big game, when you get over that white line all bets are off. It’s business time, isn’t it, all the emotion gets taken out after the first five minutes anyway and then you’ve got to be at your best.

“So there’s a realisation that that’s the case with experience, that’s what it gives you. To me, desperation is an illness. You want to stay away from that.

“You can’t be accurate if you’re desperate; being calm enough to be yourself, being controlled enough to be accurate when it matters is a temperament that we’re all chasing.”

Farrell is expecting a very different England team to the one that were beaten out the gate by France in a record defeat last weekend.

His son Owen is back to captain the side, with Manu Tuilagi partnering Henry Slade in midfield as Henry Arundell comes on to the wing and David Ribbans coming into the second-row.

The Ireland coach is expecting an emotional response and wants his players to match the physicality England will bring.

“You’ve got to be accurate in the physical parts of the game anyway. What are you seeing first to be able to be accurate and you see whether you’ve earned the right to be physical,” he said.

“And then you try and nail it. Gone are the days, 20 years ago now, when people were banging their heads against a wall.”

“To navigate yourself now around a rugby pitch for 80 minutes is mentally draining, not just physically draining to make sure that you’re staying in the moment.

“So, again, it’s something that we work hard at.”

As he prepared to face an English team he used to coach, captained by his son, Farrell was asked about the decision he took back in 2016 to move to Ireland to become part of Joe Schmidt’s coaching ticket.

“When you make a decision, you commit, and that’s it,” he said.

“And, you know, I’m very lucky that it wasn’t just me that was committed. It was my wife (Colleen) and kids as well.

“Because, whether you think it’s a close flight or connected or whatever to the UK, it is still living abroad. It is a big move, you know, kids out to school, etc.

“It was a commitment to the family. And the more I look back on that I’m forever grateful for them showing me that commitment, you know, because it was just because of me, wasn’t it?

“You know, we had to up sticks, kids went away from the friends etc, and that type of commitment is something that you never forget.

“Have I surprised myself that I like it so much? No, why would we? We love it here. We’re loving life here and the rugby’s pretty good as well.”

Farrell knows his opposite number Steve Borthwick well, having been co-captain of Saracens with the former second-row and a fellow assistant on the 2017 Lions tour.

“He’s an outstanding coach,” he said.

“When I worked with him on the Lions, I mean, the proof’s in the pudding isn’t it, really? Ask the players, they’re the people that matter and to a man everyone was raving coming back from the Lions tour.

“Steve doesn’t rest on his laurels either. He’ll be enjoying this challenge as well, to make sure he gets better as a coach and there’s no doubt about it that he’ll get it right with England.”

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