Ireland will be a better side when they get to the World Cup. That’s on the record from Ireland coach Andy Farrell. Minutes after his side won Ireland’s fourth Grand Slam, Farrell declared that come September when the tournament begins in Paris, Ireland will be a better prepared team than they have been throughout this Six Nations championship.
“We are a good side that has nowhere near reached its potential,” said Farrell after his side beat England 26-19.
“I’ve been saying over the last couple of weeks that’s what we have been striving to do. Like Johnny [Sexton] said, we’ll get a few people back to compete, train hard.
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“Everyone is going to get better in the summer when we get to spend more time together. We expect our side, when we get to the first game in the World Cup, to be a lot better that what we are now and that’s the reality.”
Farrell, whose son Owen captained the England team, said he was delighted for the group to have finished off the international rugby season with the win, which came after Ireland’s first successful series in New Zealand and a strong November international series.
Caps were also presented to Garry Ringrose, who was unable to collect his last week after taking a heavy knock in a tackle with Scotland’s Blair Kinghorn and had to be taken off for a HIA. Ringrose was unavailable to play against England.
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Farrell added that in his opinion, his captain Sexton, who confirmed that he has competed in the last Six Nations match of an illustrious career, is the best player to have played for Ireland.
“Look at the year we have had. To finish it off like that is so deserving in so many ways,” said Farrell. “Garry Ringrose getting his 50th last week ... he couldn’t receive his 50th cap, so we’ve just given it to him now in the changing room and Josh van der Flier, it’s his 50th as well and wow what a season he has had, what a fitting moment it is to get his 50th cap on such an occasion as that.
“And for captain Johnny, to finish his Six Nations campaign. He has been saying all week this is what dreams are made of. It doesn’t come around that often and it is unbelievably fitting, in my opinion, that the best player to play for Ireland is able to sign off on a Grand Slam on St Patrick’s Day (sic) in front of his own crowd.”
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The Irish coach added that he did not have any reason to believe the collision between England fullback Freddie Steward and Irish fullback Hugo Keenan was anything other than a red card.
Keenan was going low for a ball as Steward approached. In the end the 20-year-old made no attempt to effect a tackle but hit Keenan with his shoulder and hip resulting in a first-half departure for one of Ireland’s better players.
“Yes. It’s the rules isn’t it,” said Farrell. “Like you know, it’s unfortunate I believe. But it’s the rules, Yeah. You got to trust people as always, people who see it for what it is in real time and on the screen, trust them to make the right decision.”
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One of the most pleasing aspects of the win for Farrell was, while Ireland did not offer up their most polished performance of the championship, they found a way to win the match. The same was true of when the team played Scotland in the last match and suffered a series of injuries.
“You look at all of the games, they have had all sorts of stuff going on but we always found a way and again today,” said Farrell. “We was disappointed at half-time but again we found a way. We will analyse that performance and pull it apart again, but the reality is that it is a bonus-point win against a good side that was really looking to spoil the party.”