Andy Farrell hopes Ireland’s fringe players can step up against USA

Head coach says some of the inexperienced players were surprised at the step up

Ireland’s Robert Baloucoune during training ahead of the summer Tests. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland’s Robert Baloucoune during training ahead of the summer Tests. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

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Saturday’s win over Japan having perhaps given them a little more wriggle room, Andy Farrell and his assistant coaches are even more likely to rotate and delve deeper into the 37-man Irish squad for next Saturday night’s meeting with the USA.

Gavin Coombes was the only one of the dozen uncapped players in the squad to feature in the seesawing 39-31 win over the Brave Blossoms but the case for introducing Robert Baloucoune and others to Test rugby is much stronger now.

“I think that was more or less the plan anyway,” confirmed Farrell. “We don’t often get this window to have a little bit of a look at people and give people a chance. Yeah, it’s always been in the plans to do that.

“First and foremost, we respect any opponent and like I’ve said this week, we respect ourselves and that’s why any game that’s played at the Aviva we’ve got to be respectful of ourselves that we do justice to the jersey etc,” said Farrell, who will probably be without Chris Farrell after his failed HIA and Jordan Larmour due to the groin strain that forced him off in the first half.

Struggled to adapt

The Irish head coach revealed that some of the uncapped players had struggled to adapt to the standards within an international squad.

“There’s a few young lads that would have been a bit surprised at what it takes to be in international rugby and trying to get up to speed within the first week. Some lads have openly said that it was a little bit of a shock to them. They’re certainly more comfortable in their own skin after 12 days. I’m sure a few more days will do them all even more good so they can put their hand up for selection early in the week.”

One of those who Farrell and Mike Catt will evidently be keen to blood next week is Harry Byrne, after the head coach expressed his delight over Joey Carbery completing 80 minutes in his first Test match since the 2019 World Cup.

“It was very pleasing. He had a bit of a knock on his ribs in his last game as well and you saw them needing some attention there leading into this back. I thought he played really well.

“I’m sure he’s relieved to have got through a big game and managing a big game pretty well. He’s only going to get better from that experience. Like I said last week, we’ll see what happens this week whether he gets selected or not.

“Again, I have absolutely no doubt these three weeks of us being together will have whetted his appetite to make sure that he has a good summer and hits the ground running for what is a massive year next year.”

Japan’s stunning win over Ireland in the World Cup ensured that Ireland treated them with the utmost respect, something Farrell seemed to hint had not quite been the case in Shizuoka when admitting it had been a reference point in the build-up to Saturday’s game.

Experienced

“Yeah, and that’s why it’s such a good win. They are a very experienced side and the rugby that we have seen over the last couple of weeks, it actually shows me that they have moved on a little within the game.

“So, there were references. When you start a competition, you have so much to do about your own game that has to be the preference. But I suppose, I didn’t think we respected ourselves enough in that game in the World Cup and I thought Japan took advantage of that.”

“There was a little bit of motivation there. I think the motivation was to show that we can be together as a different unit as soon as we possibly can. We needed to do that to get a victory against the Japanese.”

It’s also quite likely that this will be the latest installment in the rivalry between Ireland and Japan, with the Brave Blossoms being earmarked for another visit next November when Ireland will also play the USA in Las Vegas as well as hosting New Zealand and Argentina.

“We know that every single game we play against Japan will always be a close encounter. I think the strength in depth that they’ve got, I think the way that their league at home is developing year on year, is just getting stronger and that can only stand them in good stead for the future at international level.”

It looks like, fingers crossed, Japan are here to stay and if so the world game is all the better as a consequence.

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