Andy Farrell backs players’ on-field decision-making after Paris defeat

‘They feel the game, they are in the moment, they understand what is happening’

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell defended the decision by James Ryan and the on-field leaders to opt for three points when trailing by 27-21 in the 72nd minute of their 30-24 defeat by France in the Stade de France.

Ireland had recovered audaciously from a 22-7 deficit early in the second period and had twice been rewarded with converted tries when kicking penalties to the corner. Had they done so again they would have secured an attacking bonus point and taken the lead for the first time in the match.

Trimming the lead to 27-24 still left them requiring a try to take the lead so in that sense their equation didn’t change. To opt for an attacking lineout close to the French line again would also have been more in keeping with their display as well.

Yet Farrell maintained: “It’s the right decision, there is no doubt about that. They feel the game, they are in the moment, they understand what is happening. There is plenty of time left, we have a lineout after that when we was a couple of points down. We had a lineout and an opportunity to go and score the try and we didn’t, and that’s the game, so I back them to make those calls.”

The Irish captain appeared to consult with Iain Henderson, Garry Ringrose and Joey Carbery before making his decision and Ryan himself explained: "Just felt like it was the right decision at the time. We were imposing our game on them in that period. We felt confident in our attack and we thought we could bring the game to three points and we backed ourselves to go and win the game then off the back of that."

That Ireland had fought their way back into the match and given themselves a chance of victory was credit to a superb second-half rally, in which they upped their physicality and continually to their attacking game to a rattled French side in a wildly fluctuating contest. At the end, they had outscored the home side by three tries to two, with all the match statistics ultimately pointing to an evenly balanced game in its own roundabout way.

“We already knew that we had character and that the squad was unbelievably fit and the mental strength was something we expected of ourselves,” said Farrell.

“Maybe any side that comes here to Paris and finds itself 22-7 down, we’ve seen the French take advantage of that many times and tip a team over the edge. That wasn’t going to be the case with us so I think our mental strength was fantastic tonight.

“We will be harsh and honest with ourselves about some decisions that we made along the way and things that weren’t quite right but all in all it was a hell of a Test match.

“Congratulations to France. I thought they deserved the win because that’s what the scoreline tells us and that’s sport, isn’t it? We move onto the next one.

“France played a very good game from the start. It wasn’t a plan of ours to go 10 points down after a few minutes and at one stage we was 22-7 down so all credit to France. But I must say it shows the character and the fitness of the Irish side and the spirit that we had to be in with a chance of winning the game there at the end.”

Carbery's performance in his belated first Six Nations start allayed some of the fears that Ireland are heavily Johnny Sexton dependent, and Farrell described his outhalf's performance as excellent.

“Obviously everyone was curious to see how he would go but it didn’t surprise us. He was very confident and assured in his performance, only what we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks in training anyway. He was himself, he kicked beautifully for goal and I think he controlled the game pretty well for us.

“This was a great opportunity for us to grow, for James to grow as captain and be put in the heat of battle. You don’t get better Test matches than those. We’re only going to learn and get better. I thought Joey was excellent because all of the guys around him were pretty assured as well.”

Inevitably, the game came at a physical cost, with Rónan Kelleher departing in the 26th minute due to a shoulder injury, while Peter O’Mahony only lasted five minutes after coming on before having to depart for an HIA and he did not return.

“There are a few bruised bodies, a few HIAs who are still going through protocols. Again this showed the character of the side and how they adapt when things aren’t going as planned.”

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