‘It’s what they make of this now’ - Andy Farrell challenges Ireland A to improve

All Blacks XV pummel Ireland’s second string on Friday night at the RDS

Andy Farrell’s message was unequivocal in the wake of a largely disappointing display as Ireland A were thumped 47-19 by an All Blacks Development XV at the RDS. Players need to take the bruising disappointment and use it as a fuel source to improve.

On the injury front Ciarán Frawley picked up a knee issue that will need further assessment if he is to make his anticipated senior debut against Fiji next Saturday, while secondrow Joe McCarthy will follow the return to play protocols. Cian Prendergast suffered a bang to the hip/leg.

Poor game management, system errors, sloppy execution, a lack of care and attention to detail of the game plan and an inability to adapt it to the match specific environment surfaced as the visitors gave the Irish team a rugby lesson.

While performance levels, collective and in many cases individual, dipped below the desired standard, the match as an exercise was priceless in examining the credentials of those players jostling for Test match rugby.

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Farrell said: “I’ve just said to the lads that it’s what they make of this now. It’s what they make of the performance itself and how you break it down and how you take it back to your daily lives, whether you adjust things and see where you are really at. In that regard you want them to feel a completely different experience and they certainly got that.”

New Zealand won most of the collision points, dominating the breakdown to force turnovers or get hands on Ireland scrumhalf Craig Casey. The knock-on effect was slow ruck ball and in the absence of footwork for the most part, Ireland’s carrying was one dimensional and predictable. Trying to play off it and go wide saw Irish attacks perish under pressure.

The visitors punished Ireland in the tackle, and they infiltrated the Irish passing channels in the backfield forcing questionable passes and offloads from those in a green shirt. A malfunctioning lineout and basic missed tackles were other items on the debit side of the ledger.

In contrast the Kiwis, with Damian McKenzie masterful in directing operations, and on foot of quick or turnover ball played some cracking rugby with Shaun Stevenson in particular benefitting. The 25-year-old would jog into most international Test teams.

Farrell briefly drilled into the performance aberrations. “Obviously scrum was pretty good, lineout wise we lost a bit of continuity but it’s the backline as a whole in terms of the management of the game and over-playing, trying to pull rabbits from the hat sometimes – it’s a bit greasy out there – and up against a ferocious defence, because when you’re not making inroads and trying to play expansive rugby off slow ball, then you’ll lose collisions along the way.”

The Ireland coach spoke about how much value he and his fellow coaches got in observing the players in that microclimate of a squad situation, trying to come together as a team, and dealing with everything, physically and emotionally.

He explained: “”That takes some dealing with, but unless you have that experience then how do you grow? How do you learn? It’s like anything in life we all need to be put out of our comfort zones from time to time to reassess where we’re at and if we’re serious about kicking on or not.

“For us to be able to see that and see how that unfolds, it’s great because we’ve now got more of an opinion going forward.”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer