Andy Farrell: Ireland weren’t clinical enough in France defeat

Head coach rues profligacy as his side miss out on the Championship title

Irish rugby captain Johnny Sexton has said he's "disappointed like anyone would be" after been taken off during Ireland's defeat to France.

 

A bitterly disappointed Andy Farrell lamented the chances that Ireland left behind in an empty Stade de France and the head coach came away from the game feeling that his team lacked the belief to make the most of their opportunities.

Asked what went wrong Farrell admitted: “Quite a few things actually,” before adding “I think there were enough opportunities there for us to win two games, and we certainly weren’t clinical enough with the opportunities that we had.

And if you don’t take your chances in big games like this they you come unstuck eventually.”

“It’s an obvious thing to say but we’d enough entries into the French 22 and didn’t come away with the points. It’s as simple as that really.”

“At half-time the chat was about belief. It was a little bit off, and obviously they scored just after half-time, which wasn’t great.

“But we killed our own momentum at times, and that stopped the fluidity of things. The errors that we made were across the board, it wasn’t just one area, but being clinical in the last third of the pitch was the main point.”

Expanding on this theme, Farrell revealed: “I actually thought at half-time we were 80 per cent, we didn’t quite go 100 per cent at it fully and believe, and that’s what I’m saying about opportunities close to the line, and not quite getting there with our rucking and our collision work.

“I thought it was okay at times, but you’ve got to make your own luck in games like this against big guys like that. We didn’t 100 per cent go for it as far as the accuracy and physicality. I thought we could have come away with more points in that first half.

Jamison Gibson-Park tackles Gael Fickou during Ireland’s defeat to France. Photograph: Franck Fife/Getty/AFP
Jamison Gibson-Park tackles Gael Fickou during Ireland’s defeat to France. Photograph: Franck Fife/Getty/AFP

“At half-time you try to correct a few things and give belief, but they scored that try. But there were quite a few big moments in that game. At 28-20 we had a lineout on their line and came away with nothing. In the set-piece a couple of times we spilt a few balls, we missed touch twice, so there’s an array of things that sap you and feed energy to the opposition.

Johnny Sexton’s general inclination to gamble with penalties to the corner rather than the posts, which is a continuation of the strategy under Rory Best, has provoked debate throughout this championship, and it will have been no different after this game.

For example, continually opting for set-pieces while Anthony Bouthier was in the sin-bin was rewarded with a try for the centurion Cian Healy and seven points.

Early on in the game, the Irish captain had entrusted Conor Murray with a shot at goal from fully 55 metres, which actually had the legs but not the accuracy. By contrast, with the final play of the first half, and the clock in the red, he gambled on an all-or-nothing penalty up the line which came to nothing rather than make it a one-point game at the break. But Farrell saw no conflict there and was more inclined to lament the execution of the lineout drive and ensuing attack.

“The plan was pretty simple, it’s the feel and flow of the game, and the guys out there have that feel and flow. Conor fancied himself, even though it was long-range kick, he’d been banging them over for fun in the warm-up and he backed himself to do that.

“Getting to the point just before half-time as to whether to go for the posts or go to the corner. I back the players to feel what’s right, to feel the flow of the game, and I suppose everyone would judge the decision, and what’s right and what’s wrong. But I would more go down the line once you make a decision it’s how you execute that on the back of it, and those are the bits I’d be critical of.”

The debate will also linger as to whether Ireland might have been immediately awarded a penalty try when Bouthier illegally palmed the ball over the touchline to deny Hugo Keenan a try from Sexton’s cleverly weighted grubber. But Farrell wasn’t taking any refuge in that.

“It wasn’t given so it is what it is in my opinion. I listened to the referee’s discussion that Hugo had just gone past the ball slightly, but that wasn’t the reason we lost the game.”

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