All Blacks loss will haunt Farrell’s early days
Andy Farrell is going to have to put up with a whole lot of speculation before his stamp on the Ireland team is revealed against Scotland on February 1st 2020. That will be quite a game for the trolls who were queuing up on Twitter throughout the World Cup with a self serving miscellany of 'we told you so' rants. How pleased they were when Ireland under performed.
Until then Farrell will be forced to live in the shadow of the last match Ireland played, their 46-14 defeat to the All Blacks and that might not be a very comfortable place to reside for a full three months.
As the defence coach of the Irish team, Farrell's final game in that role yielded seven tries from Aaron Smith (14', 20'), Beauden Barrett (32'), Codie Taylor (48'), Matt Todd (61'), George Bridge (73') and Jordie Barrett (79'). Ireland conceded one against Japan and one against Samoa. Russia and Scotland failed to score a touchdown.
But the All Blacks may haunt Farrell, who we heard very little from in hot and humid Japan. He also steps into the job having never before been a head coach. He is not as highly rated as Schmidt in the coaching world and against New Zealand, at least, oversaw the failure of the Irish defensive system.
Now he is responsible for the regeneration of the Irish team and rebuilding hearts and minds into thinking this can again be the number one ranked team in the world, albeit via a deeply flawed World Rugby ranking system.
Michael Cheika has gone, Steve Hansen will be too while Wayne Pivac succeeds Warren Gatland. But at least Wales made it to a semi-final and ran South Africa close before making their exit. Farrell has a lot going for him in terms of player respect, much from his own days as a league and union international player. But until February those seven tries may sit there as an unwanted World Cup legacy.
Limp end to a bruising encounter
What a low key end to the World Cup semi-final between Wales and South Africa. On 78 minutes and 12 seconds Alun Wyn Jones knocks on jumping for the ball in a Welsh lineout. Scrum. It then takes until 79 minutes 25 seconds for the players to pick themselves up off the ground, organise the set-piece and for the very good and very annoying Sale scrumhalf Faf de Klerk to feed in the ball.
On 79 minutes and 29 seconds French referee Jerome Garces blows his whistle again this time for a South African penalty. The hooter then sounds for fulltime and South Africa kick the ball dead for the match to end and for Wales to face New Zealand on Friday in a match few players really want, the bronze medal play-off in Tokyo Stadium.
So from the moment Alun Wyn Jones knocked on in the lineout until the end of the match there was no rugby played other than a feed in to the scrum from De Klerk. It didn’t seem appropriate that at the end of a tight World Cup semi-final the clock could be wound down by players faffing around after a lineout and before a scrum with one team desperately needing to find one score to draw level with the eventual winners. For Wales the focus will be how huge a mistake it was not to secure their own lineout ball and make the final few minutes more memorable than they were.
By the numbers: 22 years 107 days - the average age of England's two stand out flankers against New Zealand, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill.
Quote of the week: "If they (England) play like this in the final no one will stop them. They showed within the first minute (v New Zealand) that they were not the soft touch Ireland were," Gregor Paul writing in the New Zealand Herald.
Felix Jones flying the flag
Spare a thought for the former St Andrew’s pupil and defence consultant with the South African team, Felix Jones. In June of this year he left the Munster coaching staff. Then ahead of the World Cup, Jones joined the Springboks as a consultant and so pleased was Rassie Erasmus, who was director of rugby at Munster when Jones began his coaching career with the province, that he kept him on. Now Jones is the only Irishman involved in this week’s World Cup final.
“I sat down with the players and we said that we can’t change our attack philosophy now but we would really like to get somebody in and help us analyse the opposition’s defensive structures. We don’t really need that for the southern hemisphere teams because we play them on a regular basis,” said Erasmus last month. So far so good. Now England.