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Tuesday 22 May 2018

Farrell won't be fooled by new Welsh approach

Relaxed: Jacob Stockdale (centre) Andrew Porter (left) and Garry Ringrose during Ireland squad training at Carton House in Maynooth
Relaxed: Jacob Stockdale (centre) Andrew Porter (left) and Garry Ringrose during Ireland squad training at Carton House in Maynooth

Wales' move from 'Warrenball' to the style of play favoured by the Scarlets does not sit easily with Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell.

Where once they were powerful and direct, they are now dynamic and expansive, moving away from Warren Gatland's long-held principles. Or so the theory goes.

"I'm not buying the Scarlet-ball. Honestly, I'm not," said Farrell. "I'm buying 'Rob Howley Ball' because I think Rob made a statement straight away after coming back from the Lions about playing a more expansive game, with two pivot players.

"He's made that change and I think the lads are reaping the rewards on the back of it."

Whatever the origins of Wales new-found love of a wider game, they do have the element of surprise in that they can always revert to what has worked well against Ireland in recent years.

They have added greater versatility, greater unpredictability to their game.

"You analyse their last two games and if you think for one second that's 100% how they are going to play, you would be absolutely stupid," he issued.

Changing

"Your systems, your game plan, everything has to be able to cope with the changing game throughout the 80 minutes."

The Englishman is a formidable character. It is safe to say the Irish players wouldn't want to make their coach angry. They wouldn't like him when he's angry.

Farrell, a perfectionist, viewed Ireland's concession of three tries in the last quarter against Italy as "unacceptable."

Presumably, he let his players know all about it with a verbal volley?

"No, no, it is not the wrath at all. It is honesty. If I am not being honest with any player then I am doing them a disservice.

"Honesty to me is super-positive whether you think it is negative or not, or positive or not, because it means that I care about the progress.

"If something is not up to scratch and it is not good enough you have to be honest about that.

"The last quarter is an example for me to say what's acceptable and what's not."

It can be an all-consuming focus. But there has to be objective analysis.

"I don't get wrapped up in tries at all. I get wrapped in the reasons why," he said.

"If it's a defensive error then I get wrapped up in that, but tries come in all shapes and forms.

"It could be from a poor exit, a poor line-out, a maul, a lucky kick, a lucky this, a lucky that. I take it all in context and work it out as we go."

It will be tomorrow before Ireland will make a definitive call on tight-head Tadhg Furlong and second row Iain Henderson.

The front five forwards are trying to hit all their markers on recovery from hamstring strains.

Doubt

There was a time when guaranteed starters would have been given the benefit of the doubt when it came to the biggest games.

This is not the case any more; not in the eyes of Farrell.

"It can't be a risk. He has to be fully fit," said the coach about Furlong.

"He is hitting those targets, those markers to progress. It is just a matter of time, He is going through a process.

"It is never an ideal world but this is the world we live in in international sport."

At least James Ryan is ready from two days of full training and is able to put his best foot forward to either reunite with Henderson, team-up with Devin Toner or show impact from the bench.

There was also an upbeat report on Garry Ringrose, who was out at Carton House yesterday.

"He's looking great. I actually said to him, 'Have you put a bit of weight on?' He's looking in great nick. It's good to have him back.

"He cut us open a few times in training, like he normally does. He's short of game time, obviously, but he's a class player and he slotted straight back in."

It looks like the centre could be aimed at the match against Scotland, as long as he shows form against the Southern Kings for Leinster on Friday night.

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