Saturday 22 September 2018

Andy - It's all cause and effect

Defence coach points to danger of statistics alone

Andy Farrell
Andy Farrell

Defence is all about attitude. Take Munster specialist Jacques Nienaber.

When the South African joined his countryman Rassie Erasmus, he found the players not only receptive to but familiar with much of his philosophy.

This came as no surprise.

"All defence systems are the same. It's just where your emphasis is that differs," he said around Christmas.

"All I look at is how much attitude and effort they put into collisions, getting into positions and when things don't go our way, how hard they work to scramble," he said.

Munster have closed-up their shop to become the best defence in the PRO12, where they have conceded 17 tries, or 1.3 per match.

Even more impressively, they have allowed just four tries in six rounds (0.66 per game) of the Champions Cup for what many interpret as cast-iron proof of the best defence in Europe.

The main foundation of defence is the unbreakable commitment to put your body on the line, while adhering to the integrity of the system in operation.

The Ireland attitude was not what it should have been against Scotland.


"You can go into the game and say 'ooh, that warm-up wasn't quite right' and then you go out and have a fantastic performance," he related.

"Or you can have a brilliant warm-up, the chat in the changing-room is fantastic.

"It's not to say that it should have an effect on the field, not at all."

Ireland's "mood" was not what Andy Farrell expected in the first-half at Murrayfield.

The introduction of statistics to highlight how Ireland have coughed up too many tries during his short tenure is the outcome of poor application to the process.

"I don't go on stats at all. It is always cause and effect," he said.

"I ain't getting away from the weekend. We got caught tight twice and those tries needed to be dealt better with from us.

"And it was in the second half.

"We got the ball that we wanted because of that and those are the type of things we need to address."

The fact Ireland missed just eight tackles supports the argument that their defence was solid.

In fairness, Farrell doesn't stand off the story behind what appears to be a very favourable number.

"Again, those are stats you would say are unbelievably good," he said. "The penalty count was in our favour.

"But just because somebody makes a tackle and hangs on and gets a tick because he made a tackle.

"Is it a soft tackle? Is it fast ball. Is it slow ball? It is all cause and effect.

"You can take the rough with the smooth with stats."

Farrell dealt with the worrying aspect of Ireland's concession of almost three tries a game on his watch.

"You can say three tries or you can say we were the first side in 13 games to keep the All Blacks to three tries.

"You can jump on stats. To me, it is the cause and how we effect what has happened that is the priority."

It wasn't complacency or disrespect that led to the soaking tackles and the narrowing of the line in Murrayfield.

"I never felt that was an issue at all," said Farrell.

"I brought up the second Test in South Africa in comparison because it isn't just against the Southern Hemisphere sides or whatever.

"We respected Scotland 100 per cent, that it was going to be as tough a game, if not tougher.

"Murrayfield is always a tough place to go. Over the last few years, everyone has struggled there.

"It's great for them that they've just got over the line and it's shocking for us but they deserve the win.

"They know they're a good side. They were confident before the game.

"That's not to say that we still shouldn't have applied ourselves a little bit better and won the game."

Whatever the statistics suggest, the Irish players have to give everything to the cause.

Or the effect will be demoralising over the next four rounds.

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