Farrell: Returning Players Are All Raring To Go
Ahead of their final warm-up match on the way to the Rugby World Cup, defence coach Andy Farrell is eager for Ireland to deliver a performance that puts them in the right frame of mind for their Pool A opener against Scotland on Sunday, September 22.
The added motivation of head coach Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best bidding farewell to the Aviva Stadium makes Wales’ visit to Dublin all the more pertinent. They got the better of Warren Gatland’s men in Cardiff last weekend, winning 22-17, and a repeat performance would give Ireland extra momentum for their imminent departure to Japan.
“It is out last game before we get on the plane on Wednesday. We’re after a performance that we’re proud of. There’s an extra reason for that, Rory’s last game at the Aviva, and Joe’s, obviously, as well,” said Farrell, speaking alongside Best at the team announcement press conference in Carton House.
“The important thing is we put the performance in, the cohesive performance and the right mental attitude to take forward into two weeks and the start of the World Cup against Scotland.”
Of the 31 players that have been selected in the World Cup squad, Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls are the only ones who are yet to feature for Ireland during the GUINNESS Summer Series. That is all set to change on Saturday, with Munster ace Earls looking particularly sharp following his recent injury lay-off.
“Keith is fine, (he) hit his highest speed score today in training as he was going to score a try in the corner, which delighted us all. They’ve been held back for at least a week or two. Can’t wait to get going this weekend.”
Indeed, the return of Sexton, Henshaw and Earls underlines how strong a side Schmidt and his coaching team have selected for their fourth game in the space of just five weeks. While there are positions still up for grabs, each player in the matchday 23 on Saturday is set to play a crucial role in the forthcoming World Cup campaign.
While Farrell admits the team has been picked with one eye on the Scotland game, he said the management are also looking to explore some new combinations – recent debutant Jean Kleyn starts alongside James Ryan in the second row, while CJ Stander switches to blindside flanker in a back row anchored by Jack Conan.
Even though 19 players will be featuring at the global tournament for the very first time, they are very much pushing for a starting place alongside the more experienced members of the squad. On the team selection for Wales, the Wigan man continued:
A little bit of that (looking at Scotland) but also people gaining their first starts and trying to get a few different combinations going. It’s still having a look. What is important is that yes, we’re down to 31 but there’s still massive competition for places for who takes to the field in that first game.
“Everyone wants to be involved in that and the guys that take to the field on Saturday afternoon, they’re in the shop window to put their best foot forward for a start in the first World Cup game.”
Since Ireland’s World Cup squad was officially unveiled on Monday, there has been a number of wide-ranging discussions about those who have made it and the players who has been unfortunate to miss out. However, according to Farrell, this has had little effect on the 31 men that remain in the set-up.
“Look, we’re in a bubble here, aren’t we? 31 guys are training, plus one or two to help us with our numbers, etc. It has brought us closer together. Why? Because the team has been picked. The wait is over. You already see ownership in little groups, in different silos. You see that taking place and the cohesiveness throughout the group is of a much higher standard.”