Farrell: Ireland will not sacrifice winning for game development

Andy Farrell and Jonathan Sexton 22/1/2020
Andy Farrell admits he will need to balance the need to win with putting his own stamp on Ireland when he takes charge of the country for the first time in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.

Andy Farrell admits he will need to balance the need to win with putting his own stamp on Ireland when he takes charge of the country for the first time in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.

The 44-year-old has big boots to fill after replacing previous head coach Joe Schmidt, who stood down following last autumn’s Rugby World Cup after six years at the helm.

Schmidt guided Ireland to back-to-back Championship titles in 2014 and 2015 before overseeing their third Grand Slam triumph in 2018 with Farrell at his side as defence coach.

Ireland fixtures for 2020 Guinness Six Nations

And Farrell, who joined the Ireland set-up in April 2016 after a four-year spell as England assistant coach, has no intention of letting standards slip as he looks to build on Schmidt’s legacy.

“We want to progress our game and win,” he said. “We want to develop our game, we want to keep on improving and certain aspects will take a little bit of time but we expect to perform.

“It’s an all-round game and the fundamentals of the game never change, so that’s got to be at a premium. Those fundamentals need to keep on developing.

“You can’t win any game without a good set-piece or without a good defence or without a good game-understanding so those aspects need to keep on developing as well.

“Attack is always a difficult process as it tends to take a bit longer but we want to improve that along the way, it might take a little bit of time but we will get there.

“We want to keep developing but the key is to make sure we don’t get too ahead of ourselves, we want to stand for something – we want to stand for what we said we would stand for.

“Every coach that comes in to a team would like to put their own stamp on the game but without getting too ahead of ourselves. I love the challenge and I’ve worked hard to get here.”

Ireland will kick off their 2020 Guinness Six Nations campaign at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, where they will welcome Scotland for a blockbuster Round 1 encounter.

The 2018 champions lost their first game to England in last year’s Championship as they finished third and Farrell stressed the importance of making their home a fortress once again.

“If you want to win the Championship you have to win your home games that’s for sure and we are incredibly proud when we put an Irish shirt on and play at the Aviva Stadium,” he added.

“We certainly don’t want to lose there and I’m sure that that goes for every playing nation, I’m 100 per cent sure of that, that’s why BT Murrayfield is so hard to go to.

“We have great motivation ahead of that game in Dublin as we lost our first game last year and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen again but I’m sure Scotland will want to have a say in that.”

Farrell was joined at the 2020 Guinness Six Nations launch by his captain Johnny Sexton, who revealed his pride at being named Rory Best’s successor as skipper after his retirement.

“I think everyone would want to be captain but it’s about someone wanting you to do it,” said the 34-year-old fly-half. “That’s the biggest honour you can be asked to do.

“It meant a lot that Andy asked me to do it, that he thought I was the one to lead us forward into this campaign. It’s a campaign-by-campaign thing at the moment and we’ll see how we go.”

Reiterating the message from his new head coach, Sexton also insisted that results will remain of paramount importance for Ireland even as they undergo a transitional phase under Farrell.

“We talk about performances and everyone says how we dipped off in 2019 but we had some bad performances in 2018 and they sometimes get glossed over with wins,” he said.

“That’s what we get judged on and winning is what we want to do. How we get there is obviously what we’re going to do over the next ten days and we need to develop our game.

“But we need to make sure we’re comfortable enough with whatever it is that we decide so we’re ready to win and that’s what we’re going into the Championship to do.”