World Cup years haven’t been kind to Ireland boss Andy Farrell as a Test level assistant. England blew a Guinness Six Nations title in 2015 and then went on to implode at the finals, getting eliminated at the pool stage in their own backyard. Four years later in Japan, Ireland were filleted in the quarter-finals by the All Blacks after a Six Nations that exposed cracks that couldn’t be fixed in time.
No longer a defence coach (that brief is Simon Easterby’s), Farrell is now master of all he surveys in Ireland having originally moved across the Irish Sea in 2016 to work under Joe Schmidt and ahead of a championship campaign that opens away to Wales on February 4, he is optimistic that the currently ranked world No1 side can deliver like never before in a World Cup calendar year.
Why? Because he believes that the mentality of the class of 2023 is more steeled than previously when high-pressure campaigns came apart at the seams. “It’s not just about what I learned,” he said, harking back to 2019 when the warning bells sounded as soon as the opening day defeat to England in Dublin in the Six Nations, a year that culminated in an embarrassing RWC schooling by New Zealand.
“Obviously we learned a lot. It is well documented things that went on back then and the reasons why with the report etc, it’s all there and it’s out there for everyone to look at. But it’s just about us and our own standards and what it is that we are trying to achieve. That is all that matters – getting the right competition, the right people in the room is crucial to that.
“But how we go about our daily business and how we keep growing not just our game on the field but how we keep growing our togetherness off the field will make us even stronger for the World Cup because what I think we have got pretty decent at is having an no-excuse mentality to whatever may be thrown our way during this Six Nations or at the World Cup. We’re pretty good at being resilient now and being able to see it for what it is and move on, that is on and off the field.”