Inclusivity, resilience and depth Farrell’s recipe for Ireland World Cup success

Ireland will hope to emulate the 2003 England team that won the Six Nations Grand Slam in Dublin and were crowned world champions later this year.

The Irish have a difficult fate – 2019 champions South Africa and Scotland in their pool and then a potential quarter-final against New Zealand or France.

Ireland’s players and fans are painfully aware that they fell short at the World Cup – they never got past the last eight.

With 22 wins in their last 24 Tests, including a historic series win in New Zealand and now the Six Nations Grand Slam, they are in a very strong position to go all the way.

Here, AFP Sports picks three ingredients that bode well for their chances in France later this year:

Inclusivity is key to Farrell’s success

“I’ve had a chat with Peter O’Mahony, everyone is talking about how good the environment is here and it’s not rubbish,” commented veteran Dave Kilcoyne ahead of the win over France.

There’s a strong element to how Andy Farrell has built an impressive squad over four years – there’s pain and disappointment but it’s balanced by inclusion.

Farrell, 47, has spoken of being approachable that his door is always open to players.

“The best thing about him is that he hasn’t changed a bit from assistant to head coach,” said Johnny Sexton after Ireland’s win over England to seal the Grand Slam.

“He’s still very popular, even with the guys he doesn’t choose.”

Under Farrell’s predecessor Joe Schmidt, while they enjoyed success – the pinnacle of the 2018 Grand Slam – the New Zealander never shook off the habits formed as a school teacher and ran the squad with an iron fist.

The signs were there early on that Farrell was a man confident in the “journey” he envisaged and unafraid of making difficult decisions – highlighted by his unloading of a clearly angry sexton during the loss to France in Paris im year 2020 .

Ruffled feathers have since been smoothed out, showing how adept Farrell is at man management, which is a priceless quality in an intense campaign like the World Cup.

The story goes on


A Grand Slam achieved with four bonus points from five wins and defeating all of his opponents by 13 points or more seems like a walk in the park – it was anything but.

Andy Farrell admitted that with just 10-9 against a 14-man England side it was time for a ‘bullshit butt’ – but once again they found a way to get themselves back on track.

That resilience came to the fore when they lost three players to Scotland in the first half – “the whole team was laughing because it was organized chaos at half-time,” Farrell said – and then their backup hooker Ronan Kelleher before the 50-minute mark.

Prop Cian Healy had to fill in on Hooker and flanker Josh van der Flier took the line out shots – they still fought their way to a 22-7 win.

“In terms of character, combat, and willpower, this is the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Farrell.

It’s a trait of Farrell’s side, a strength that will stand them in good stead in the rigors of the World Cup

The agony of choice

It was about time Ireland lost a player from a starting XI, the lack of depth left them vulnerable – like in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals when a side without the injured Johnny Sexton, Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony lost steam. rolled by Argentina.

Andy Farrell has corrected this in his four years at the helm, because apart from the fact that he also has a wealth of options alongside the now regular starters Caelan Doris, Jamison Gibson-Park and Mack Hansen.

A case in point is Ryan Baird, forward from the second row. At the start of the tournament, the 23-year-old was fourth-choice against England with Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson injured.

He didn’t flinch and produced a crucial second-half rally that lifted the spirits of his teammates.

“I found him immense in the second half,” said Farrell.

For Johnny Sexton, that kind of performance adds to the competition for World Championship spots, which can only be a positive.

“That’s exactly what we need at World Cup time. We need 40-45 players all fighting for positions at the same level.”



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