Andy Farrell: Ireland head coach expects players to have used extended break wisely


Farrell has not been able to train with his squad since their penultimate Six Nations game was postponed in early March

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell says he expects his players to have used the coronavirus-enforced extended break to their advantage.

The four provinces return to Pro14 action later this month, with Leinster playing Munster on 22 August and Ulster meeting Connacht the next day.

Once the club season ends, Ireland face six games in seven weeks this autumn, and Farrell anticipates widening his squad, meaning more opportunities for players who perform well for their provinces in the coming weeks.

“I know that, speaking to a lot of the players, they have used [the lockdown] wisely,” said Farrell.

“I know that they’ve reflected on what their games need to progress with, whether that be putting on a little bit of weight and size, or fitness and skill work.

“It’s up to the individual that they take the best of what’s in front of them and use it wisely.

“That’s what we’ll be looking for when the Pro14 resumes on 22 August, to see who has had no excuses and to made sure that they get better as a player.

“We will see what people make of it from day one.”

“With the senior players I would have no doubt that they would have used this time to see if they can get a little bit more longevity onto their careers.

“Young lads want to keep playing and would like no breaks, so we will see how the individual turns up on 22 August.”

Ireland will not be ‘frightened’ to seek Six Nations title

Ireland are scheduled to return to action on 24 October, eight months after their last game, when they will meet Italy at home before taking on France a week later in Paris.

Two bonus point wins would see Farrell’s side clinch the championship, having won two of their three fixtures before the competition was postponed due to the pandemic.

“It’s there to be won, we’ve got to be hungry to do that and not be frightened of it,” Farrell said.

“Italy will be tough and Paris is a hell of a game, isn’t it? It’s in our hands and we want to attack that full steam ahead.”

Ireland will win the Six Nations if they can collect the maximum 10 points from their remaining two matches

The end of the Six Nations will lead straight into a new eight-team tournament which will replace this year’s Autumn Tests.

Ireland will meet England, Wales and Fiji in consecutive weeks before a final game against a team from the tournament’s other pool, which includes Ireland’s World Cup tormentors Japan.

“It’s what everyone wants to see, a competition that’s going to be World Cup-like in a way,” said Farrell.

“Any competition that you’re involved in, you want to win it.

“You would tend to utilise a squad that may be a bit bigger than normal, simply because of the run of games and the back-to-back weeks.”

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