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green giants Ireland head coach Andy Farrell urges Ireland to push on from All Blacks win


Head coach Andy Farrell during Ireland squad training at IRFU HPC at the Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Head coach Andy Farrell during Ireland squad training at IRFU HPC at the Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Head coach Andy Farrell during Ireland squad training at IRFU HPC at the Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Andy Farrell has charged his Ireland team to kick on from their November performances and bring home a first Six Nations title since 2018.

Ireland begin their campaign against Wales in Dublin tomorrow and yesterday the coach named 13 of the team that beat New Zealand 12 weeks ago to start, with debutant Mack Hansen and Tadhg Beirne replacing the injured James Lowe and Iain Henderson.

On the bench, Joey Carbery gets the nod ahead of Jack Carty and Ulster’s James Hume is a surprise inclusion.

The holders arrive without several of their most experienced players and their coach Wayne Pivac yesterday named Lions winger Josh Adams at outside centre.

Ireland are heavy favourites for the game, but Farrell is mindful of the fact the last time they beat the All Blacks, in November 2018, they were comprehensively beaten in their championship opener the following February. But he says his side have plenty to improve on despite their autumn success.

“Put simply, you can analyse any big game. You can look back in history and say, ‘Wow, that was a brilliant performance’,” he said. “But, when you watch it back again, there are lots of errors all over the place.

“There’s areas that are nowhere near where our game should be.

“That’s a great place to be for us.

“We want to keep pushing boundaries and see where we can take it.

“That’s what training is all about, what camp is all about, what growing our mentality is all about. How we push those boundaries, showing them day in and day out what’s acceptable and what the standards need to be, etc.

“Do you know what, this group and this environment is one that is working hard together, and they are unbelievably honest and open with each other and they know the standards they set for themselves. Hopefully that continues.”

Although he is hungry for a first title since taking over from Joe Schmidt after the 2019 World Cup, Farrell is also mindful of building towards the 2023 edition in France and believes creating a winning mentality will be key to success.

“We always have a focus on where we’re going and what we’re trying to achieve and how we’re trying to get there,” he said.

“Putting ourselves under pressure in the autumn against great sides is one step and the next step is a competition with a trophy at the end of it that we want to do really well in and we want to improve our performance and then grow the confidence and grow that connection with the fans and take ourselves on a journey.

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“To me, the journey is unbelievably tough and when you look at it back in September, it could be a little bit daunting but it’s exactly what we want.

“We want to put ourselves under pressure and we want to see how we deal with that pressure.

“The Six Nations is always that, it’s the ultimate test as far as a rugby competition is concerned and then you look at what we’ve got down the track, it’s exactly what we want.

“We’d all love a trophy. Nobody would lie to that but at the same time, for us, success is pushing on with our game.

“It definitely is and I think trophies look after themselves in that regard.”

Tomorrow is Farrell’s first Six Nations game in front of crowds since 2020.

“It’s massive to us,” he said of the return of full houses.

“It’s everything to us. We’re so grateful for the Government to make this decision to allow the people back in.

“It makes us tick massively because there’s a reason why you do things and one of those reasons is that we want to connect with people.

“We want to connect with the people who are watching at home.

“We want them to be proud of their team with the way that we’re playing the game. We also want to connect with the people who are at the ground and who have made the effort to come and watch us and paid their money for their tickets.

“The connection for us is huge and we’ve missed that as a team.

“We got a taste of it in the autumn and we all know what the atmosphere was like then. For us to continue that connection with the people is huge. We want to it grow as much as it possibly can do.”

Farrell revealed that Keith Earls and Rob Herring miss out with hamstring injuries, while Henderson and Robbie Henshaw will be available for selection next week. Robert Baloucoune, Mike Lowry and Nick Timoney were released to play for Ulster tonight.

Wales coach Pivac is wary of an in-form Irish side.

“They’re very powerful, aren’t they? They had a very good autumn,” he said.

“They built on the last Six Nations and how they finished that competition and they haven’t really looked back since.

“They’re moving a bit more ball than they probably have in the past which makes them a bit more dangerous.

“They’ve obviously got a power game they can use, but there’s a bit more width in their game now. The defence has to be on their toes.”

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