Andy Farrell: ‘You would actually think it was the start of the season, not the end’

Captain James Ryan praises crowd for playing their part in big win over the USA

It was a night to focus on the positive aspects of a facile 71-10 victory over the USA rather than delve into the performance minutiae. A two-game summer series has yielded a couple of wins and allowed a quick glance at the depth of the playing roster for the national squad.

Eight players made their Ireland debuts at the Aviva stadium, hooker Rónan Kelleher scored four tries, and while acknowledging the limitations of the American performance, some of the rugby played by this young Irish team was easy on the eye. Players were given the scope to express themselves and wholeheartedly subscribed to the opportunity.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell understandably focused on those making their Test bow. He said: "I am delighted for the new caps. To a man they all did extremely well and they should be proud of themselves. It does not matter if the scoreline says 71 points or not. They should be proud of how they handled themselves.

“It was tentative at the start, we were trying to feel our way into the game; a couple of lineouts went astray, a couple of sloppy passes, when you go from one negative to another, it can have a negative effect on the game.

“I was unbelievably pleased with how they gathered themselves, regrouped and got back into the game, how they held it there. They did not become sloppy after that. We saw last week how USA can get back into things and gather themselves. So I am pleased.”

The coach also acknowledged Kelleher’s individual milestone. “Rónan has had one or two starts for us before in big games. He is top notch, he deserves his start, he is growing, his set-piece is getting better; his defence is a lot more aggressive, we know about his attacking display. Him being called into the Lions and training with them for a period was great for him.”

So was he frustrated at being taken off? Farrell smiled: "He certainly wasn't frustrated; he was delighted for himself. It is not just about Rónan; Dave Heffernan has been in the camp and deserved his opportunity."

The Ireland coach paid tribute to the group for the work they have put in over the last three weeks, encompassing the two matches. “I have been delighted, first and foremost by the lads’ attitude, you never would think it has been a marathon of a season. I said it to them in the dressingroom that you would actually think it was the start of the season, not the end.

“The new caps have wanted that experience; lads are growing into the leadership role. Lads who have never had been in there before have thrived on the experience. When we meet up again, we don’t want to take one step back before we go forward again.

“We have seen the group grow; when we meet back up with the Lions lads, we want the experience to be transferred from this year to the start of next season, the autumn; it is going to be difficult for us next season.”

Ireland captain James Ryan acknowledged the atmosphere in the stadium. "It was a very enjoyable game to play in; the crowd of 6,000 felt like 60,000. The first half we felt pretty sorry for ourselves, the second half we were much better, we got on the front foot, our set piece was a bit more accurate. For the debutants to have their families and friends here was special.

“Achieving two wins was paramount for us. A number of guys have got a taste now for international rugby. They will get a taste for international rugby and they will go back to their provinces in a good place. Going forward, competition for the first XV and the 23-man squad will be massive.

“Younger players, Hugo [Keenan], Joey [Carbery] and Caelan [Doris], have become more actively involved in the bigger picture in terms of how the team is going. They have been class over the last few weeks and made my job really easy.”

On a personal level he is looking forward to a little down time. “The break will be good to get my body right for next season and beyond. It has been a massive honour for me to lead my country. We have a great group of lads. The national group has grown. A number of new players have been given a chance and it has put us in good stead for next season.”

There was just one more ‘official’ function as the squad looked forward to a few beers, namely the tradition of new caps having to sing a song. It threatened to be a long night. Ryan smiled: “No [there won’t be eight singers] it’ll be in groups of two, we can’t do eight songs. To be honest it is a lot better than singing by yourself.” A fitting finale with new ringing out the old season.

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