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Farrell with his children and grandkids. Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Grand Slam

Ireland rugby boss Andy Farrell plans on making team even better for tilt at World Cup glory

‘There’s a long way for us to go for us to be at our best.’

IT WOULD HAVE been understandable and maybe even more fitting of the occasion if Andy Farrell had opted against getting into World Cup chat on Saturday night just after watching his Ireland team claim a rare Grand Slam.

He was given a few outs in this regard, with one member of the media suggesting that Farrell probably didn’t want to talk about the World Cup.

But he did. The Ireland boss brought it up himself several times. This has been a theme in his public dealings since last year simply because Ireland themselves have been talking about the World Cup for a while now. They’re not obsessing about overcoming any quarter-final hurdle. They’re obsessing about winning the thing.

“I said to you in New Zealand [last summer], ‘This was the start of our World Cup year,’ and it was.

“I suppose the most pleasing thing is that we’ve continued to be successful, you know, to find a way. Everyone was nervous about that except us.

“So this is part of the journey, isn’t it? Obviously, this stands in its own right, as does the New Zealand tour, but it’s part of the journey of us as a group going forward into a World Cup.”

Farrell was looking forward to the celebrations as he spoke on Saturday evening and it was easy to think that he was looking forward to Ireland camp breaking up after eight or nine weeks of living in each other’s pockets.

But in truth, Farrell hasn’t seemed all that stressed over the last couple of months aside from a bit of normal in-game anxiety that comes with the territory.

“I haven’t really been [stressed] because it is what it is,” said Farrell.

“I mean, what can you do when lads are injured? What can you do when you know that England are going to come bouncing back and they’re going to be 30% better than they were the week before? What can you do when Scotland are going for a Triple Crown?

andy-farrell-and-dan-sheehan-celebrate-after-the-game Farrell with Ireland hooker Dan Sheehan. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s a brilliant place to be. Embrace it and see what you can get out of it, not just as a team but personally as well. That’s the challenge, isn’t it? And that’s why we all love the Six Nations in that regard.”

Farrell’s sense of calm clearly filters into his players, although there were obviously edgy at times last weekend with the Grand Slam on the line. Perhaps our expectations for this Ireland team are already getting too lofty but Farrell himself feels that this team has only really scratched the surface in this Six Nations.

You wouldn’t even be surprised if a few of the players woke yesterday with a tinge of frustration in the back of their minds about not delivering a more complete performance on the final day of the championship. That’s the level they hold themselves to.

It’s a nice place for Farrell and Ireland to be when they can come back into camp in June to begin their World Cup prep as the number one team in the world with lots of scope for getting better. 

“We’ll get two or three months pre-season training for the first time together and I expect ourselves to be better obviously because of that,” said Farrell.

“We’ve carried on winning. Is that the yardstick? I don’t know. I suppose we just go on the performances and the performances were pretty good in New Zealand and we’ve continued to find a way.

“It’s never been perfect but the game is not like that, so the mental strength of our game and large parts of our game are in a good place.

 “But like I said, there’s a long way for us to go for us to be at our best which is a great sign.”

The journey continues and it promises to be a hell of a ride.

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