Six NationsMatch Reaction

Andy Farrell: ‘We’ve got to dust ourselves down . . . we’ve got a championship to win’

Ireland head coach admits England deserved their victory but praises his side for battling back twice

Ireland will have regrets aplenty about their performance and their endgame management, But Andy Farrell sought to put a brave face on Ireland’s first defeat in a dozen Six Nations matches by emphasising how much England’s display made them deserving 23-22 winners of a pulsating Twickenham thriller.

The Irish head coach also took evident pride in how his side twice bounced off the ropes to keep alive their hopes of a historic second Grand Slam in succession. Ireland appeared well on course to set up another tilt at a Slam in the Aviva Stadium next Saturday when moving into a 17-8 lead early in the second half and then engineered a second James Lowe try to lead 22-20 eight minutes from time. But ultimately they were themselves left floored by a Marcus Smith drop goal with the last kick of the game.

“To cut a long story short, I actually thought that England deserved to win,” admitted the Irish head coach. “I thought we fought back unbelievably well against the run of play sometimes. Certainly coming in at half-time like that and again in the second half, finding a way to get ourselves in front but, again, to cut a long story short, I thought England deserved it with the pressure that they had and created. So congratulations to them.”

With Scotland having also lost surprisingly against Italy in Rome, it leaves Ireland still well placed to retain their Six Nations title, which didn’t seem like huge solace in the aftermath of this defeat.


But Farrell maintained: “You talk about the Grand Slam stuff, well every game matters. We want to win everything and we’ve never shied away from that. Today was obviously one of those games that we wanted to win but that’s life. You dust yourself down.

“We’ve been very good at winning and moving on to the next one. We’ve got to be really good at losing as well, making sure that we congratulate England tonight, have a beer with them.

“I thought they played really well,” said Farrell, returning to his central theme. “So, we’ve got to dust ourselves down tomorrow and make sure that we turn up with a smile on our face because we’ve got a championship to win next weekend.”

Having succeeded in reaching Farrell’s pre-tournament target of taking their title defence to the last weekend, Farrell also maintained: “We said from the beginning that we’d like to be in with a chance of winning the competition on the last day and here we are. Look, the lads are realists, they’ll learn the lessons quickly.

“There’s not a problem at all about getting the lads back on track for next week. Six Nations [titles] are unbelievably difficult to come by. To win them you tend to have a lot of ups and downs – the results today and what’s happened throughout this competition. That’s why we love it so much.

“For the neutral as well that was a fantastic game to watch. We were on the wrong side of that result but there will be absolutely no problem whatsoever getting back to work next week for what is a super important week for Irish rugby.”

Farrell had forewarned of a big England performance and accordingly was not surprised by how well they played.

“No. Not at all. Look at the quality of the players that they’ve got. Certainly, when you’re coming off the back of a defeat it tends to concentrate the mind a little bit. Hopefully it does for us next week. We always prepare for every game for everyone to be at their best.

“I thought they [England] were super tonight, I thought they were physical, they were challenging on the gainline and played a nice brand of rugby as well.”

Despite taking the defeat squarely on the chin, it appeared as if Farrell and his English counterpart Steve Borthwick had an angry exchange as they exited the pitch through the tunnel to the dressingrooms. But Farrell laughed it off.

“Just: ‘How are you doing, Steve? Nice to see you again. Not spoke to you for a long time.’ All good.”

Peter O’Mahony struck a similar note to Farrell in praising England’s performance. although having been yellow-carded himself and despite the 10-8 penalty count in Ireland’s favour, he conceded: “We spoke about our discipline. Obviously, it was a big ‘in’ for them.

“I thought they were good and clinical at messing up our breakdown. We found it hard to get consistency in our phase play. I thought we striked quite well offset piece but we didn’t seem to get into our a lot of phase [play].

“Like as we said beforehand, it was a massive pressure match, pressure environment. They’re a quality side and I thought they showed that in spades tonight with the way they defended, clinical in their attack and disrupted a lot of the stuff that we wanted to do.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times