Ireland fire another blank; Farrell readying team for Twickenham war of attrition

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Ireland’s Shane Duffy and Josh Cullen dejected at the end of the game. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Ireland’s Shane Duffy and Josh Cullen dejected at the end of the game. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

The wait goes on. It’s now seven matches since Ireland last scored a goal and Stephen Kenny must be wonderingif his opening spell as manager could have gone much worse. With 14 players missing and seemingly nobody able to put the ball in the net it was another frustrating night last night although a 0-0 draw with Bulgaria did, mercifully, save Ireland from Nations League relegation. The manager is doing his best to stay upbeat and said afterwards that the campaign will stand to his side after the much-needed break they now face before 2022 World Cup qualifiers begin in March. All in all it was a pretty crazy week for the squad and the manager as the absentee list grew at every turn and, as Mary Hannigan writes, the nation held its breath last night, just not for quite the same reason as in 1990. While there wasn’t too much to be gained from another drab draw there were some highlights of sorts and Patrick Madden has run the rule over Kenny’s team.

On to rugby and Andy Farrell selected his team yesterday to face England on Saturday with the Ireland head coach retaining faith in a number of players from the side that beat Wales while also fully aware that this weekend poses a huge physical challenge. “The way that we’re going with our game is all about decision-making and being in the moment. Being adaptable to what the game offers for us is our way forward,” Farrell said yesterday. One player who was impressive against Wales and who keeps his place this weekend is James Lowe. The New Zealand-born wing enjoyed a stellar debut last week and, as John O’Sullivan outlines in his rugby stats column, he made an instant impact from the off. Quinn Roux also stays in the side and yesterday he was asked about the famous “soft” remark made by Rassie Erasmus during last year’s Rugby World Cup but the South African lock says he takes no interest in that sort of external noise.

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