Connect with us

6 Nations

Farrell Pleased With ‘Composure And Intent’ In Record Away Win Over France



France lost experienced lock Paul Willemse to a 30th-minute red card, but stayed in the fight and twice closed the gap to seven points thanks to tries from Damian Penaud, just before half-time, and Paul Gabrillagues.

Despite unloading their powerful bench and the home crowd at the Stade Vélodrome raising the decibel level, les Bleus could not contain a try-hungry Ireland who bagged their bonus point while captain Peter O’Mahony was in the sin.

A second maul score saw replacement Ronan Kelleher round off a terrific 38-17 opening night win, adding to earlier efforts from Jamison Gibson-Park (15 minutes), Tadhg Beirne (29), Six Nations debutant Calvin Nash (45), and Dan Sheehan (61).

Joe McCarthy was to the manor born in the tight exchanges, deservedly winning the player-of-the-match award on his Six Nations bow, while Jack Crowley marked his first Championship start with 13 points, including a couple of conversions tight to the left touchline.

An unblemished lineout performance with 13 wins on their own throw, and consistent pressure applied to the French set-piece, was another obvious positive for Farrell following Ireland’s highest ever points total against France and their biggest winning margin in the fixture since 1913 (24-0).

“In all honesty, and I think you guys would agree, we’d take any type of win here, in Marseille on a Friday night, the first game to kick off the Six Nations,” he said, speaking at the post-match press conference.

“I suppose the more the game was going on, the more you saw a performance building. I thought we got exactly what we deserved in the end.

“As a team, certainly our composure (impressed me) because it wasn’t all singing, all dancing, a French side that’s always going to pose questions, and the crowd was always going to get behind them at times.

“But we managed to silence them quite a lot through good composure with how we played the game. The main thing for me would have been our ability to just stay on it for the full 80 minutes and keep attacking the game.

“When you’re playing against 14 men for a long period, sometimes subconsciously you tend to shut up shop a little bit more.

“I thought our intent was pretty good, and we were pretty ruthless when we needed to be. Obviously on top of that, I thought our lineout in attack and defence was outstanding.”

While Ireland had a number of new faces involved for their first game since the Rugby World Cup, the reality is that these players have been diligently building for this moment for some time. McCarthy and Crowley were first capped in 2022 and learned a lot from their World Cup involvement.

On the back of winning the BKT United Rugby Championship with Munster, the 26-year-old Nash timed his run perfectly to break into the team at a time when key men were missing in the back-three ranks.

Farrell, who also sprung Ciaran Frawley from the bench for his Six Nations debut, was always confident that his Championship novices would step up to the plate and perform well in what was an intense Marseille cauldron at times.

“Obviously delighted for them. It’s not something that surprises us as a group because these lads have been involved in and around the group for a number of years.

Some have been waiting for their chance, some have been playing so well that you can’t keep them out of the squad. The best thing about this team in this moment in time is exactly that – it’s a team.

“We all pull in the right direction, so therefore it doesn’t really matter whether you’re Pete (O’Mahony) – and you’re touching 42, 43! – or you’re Joe McCarthy who is a young buck trying to make his way. Everyone’s in the same boat pulling in the same direction.

“It doesn’t surprise me that those young guys or those inexperienced guys that you’re talking about have performed, because they tend to feel comfortable in their own skin within the environment.”

Such is the calibre of the French team, with winger Penaud the Championship’s top try scorer for the last two years and a behemoth pack that can really pack a punch, they did have their moments despite producing a below-par collective performance.

That late first half momentum, through a series of penalties, translated into a converted score for Penaud, and Ireland were hit with a double whammy when Gabrillagues’ 52nd-minute try was awarded and O’Mahony was dispatched to the bin.

The pressure was back on Ireland at that stage, their lead reduced to 24-17 and the playing numbers evened up. Their response was definitive, a big bomb from Crowley causing trouble in the hosts’ 22, Robbie Henshaw carrying brilliantly, and then Sheehan crashed over from a maul.

“As you’ve heard us talking about it over the last couple of years, it’s something that we continue to work hard on – making sure that we don’t get too ahead of ourselves or we don’t get too down on ourselves,” commented the Ireland coach.

“I thought we were excellent in that regard, albeit probably a 10-minute period before half-time where there was a knock-on effect from a couple of penalties that we’re given away.

“We lost our way a little bit, start of the second half, whether it was our fault or not in regards to a couple of penalties that didn’t go our way. It was a five or six-minute period. But all in all, I thought we were really, really good.

“Even the players talked about it at half-time and after the match there, that the composure was great, (being) able to get on to the next moment and keep on building our game. So I don’t think we became too fazed, albeit it wasn’t perfect.”

The task now is to build on what was achieved in France’s oldest city, as Farrell’s men return to a sold-out Aviva Stadium for two back-to-back home matches against Italy (Sunday week) and Wales (February 24).

The spotlight was on Crowley this week given he was first to fill the number 10 jersey following Jonathan Sexton’s retirement. It was a daunting challenge, and there were some miscues, but the 24-year-old embraced it all and contributed handsomely to a memorable victory on the Mediterranean coast.

“He typifies exactly what we’re talking about,” explained Farrell. “There’s no doubt that a young kid playing in a position like Jack is at 10, with the responsibility of that…but then obviously all week, and rightly so, everyone’s talking about how were we going to deal without having Johnny at the helm, etc., and Jack’s going to be the one that has the first shot at filling the shoes.

“It definitely creeps in. You would be a liar if you said it didn’t, but he gains his strength from knowing that his team-mates are prepared and are there to help.

“I thought his composure at the line was great. He made some really nice decisions and some poor ones at that, as well. He’ll know that more than anyone else.

“I thought the strength of character regarding his goal-kicking when he missed the one in front, albeit from a longer distance, nut then to knock them over from the sideline, two on the trot from the sideline, shows immense character really.

“It’s a good start for him, it’s a good start for us as a team. Hopefully he’ll get better and we’ll benefit from that as well.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

6 Nations

Keenan’s Injury Rehab ‘Progressing Well’ As Ireland Squad Link Back Up Together



Hugo Keenan was always confident that Ciaran Frawley would perform well against Wales last week, with the Skerries man marking his first start for Ireland by running in the hosts’ third try of the game.

Frawley deputised at full-back as Andy Farrell’s men made it three bonus point wins on the trot to extend their lead at the top of the Guinness Men’s Six Nations table to six points. Calcutta Cup winners Scotland are now their closest challengers.

It was a rare match for Keenan to miss, and such has been the ever-dependable Dubliner’s importance to the team during Andy Farrell’s reign, he has started 38 of their last 43 Tests. Only Jimmy O’Brien, Michael Lowry, and now Frawley, have stood in for him during that time.

Currently rehabbing the knee injury that he picked up against Italy, and with his sights set on returning against England on Saturday week, Keenan is hopeful of being available for selection for the trip to Twickenham.

“That’s the plan, hoping to get back for England. I was sad not to be out there at the weekend. Always tough watching from the stand, but rehab’s progressing well,” he said, speaking at an event to promote Energia’s #HalfAFan campaign.

“I’ve been worked hard. I’ve been in rehabbing the last day or two as well while the rest of the squad’s been off, so it’s always the annoying side of it, you don’t really get your days off.

“I’m happy with how it’s coming along, and progressing well. No (contact training), not fully quite there but we haven’t been in this week.

“We’re linking back up together tomorrow (Wednesday), we are going to be based in Energia (Park), then we’ve got the open training session (at the Aviva Stadium) on Thursday. Not too far off getting fully involved, so looking forward to being back.”

It is easy to forget that Keenan won four of his first six international caps on the wing, towards the tail end of 2020 and those uncertain Covid-19 times. Since then he has very much cemented himself as Ireland’s first choice full-back, and one of the best in the position worldwide.

Having been ever-present during last year’s Grand Slam-winning campaign and the Rugby World Cup, the 27-year-old is itching to get back to full fitness and ensure that it is only one game he has to sit out.

Commenting on the timeframe for his recovery, he explained: “I suppose the injury happened in the Italy game and four weeks from that would be the England game. I was trying to get back for the Wales match. It was just a week or two too early.

We sort of treated it – since we’ve known I’d be out – as a four-week injury. There was no point rushing me straight back into something I’m not ready for.

“So, I’m hoping to build up the load over the next 10 or so days leading up to it to get right for that one. You don’t enjoy the time on the sideline but hopefully it will be a case where I just miss one.

“It wouldn’t have been the worst timing because maybe sometimes a four-week injury in the middle of a Six Nations you miss three games rather than just one. Hopefully I’m getting lucky with that.”

Reflecting on how he sustained the injury, Keenan fell awkwardly in a 52nd-minute tackle from Italy replacement Giosuè Zilocchi. Just moments earlier, he had spearheaded a breathless attack from deep, breaking onto Craig Casey’s chip kick and bringing play close to the Italian 22.

“I saw him (Zilocchi) coming out of the corner of my eye, so I managed to get my legs off the ground, which meant a lot of the impact was taken, so it was nothing too serious.

“I tried to shake it off, but it probably wasn’t one I could have. We were in a comfortable position at that stage as well.

“You always are a small bit nervous, but we’ve got great doctors and great physios. They cleared my knee for a large part going into it (the scan), so I was pretty confident it was something pretty minor. I was reassured soon enough so it was all good.”

Frawley’s 80 minutes against Wales – ‘solid enough’ according to head coach Farrell – will certainly help to build more depth at full-back.

Jack Crowley got some game-time in the position against Italy, while of Ireland’s extended Six Nations squad, Jordan Larmour and Jacob Stockdale have also had international starts at full-back.

Mack Hansen (shoulder) and O’Brien (neck) will add to those back-field options on their return from injury later in the year. In the meantime, Keenan praised his Leinster colleague for his performance last Saturday, but would understandably rather be out there himself as Ireland’s last line of defence.

“I’ve been lucky enough that I haven’t been in that situation (sidelined for match week) too many times. I’ve had a good run of injuries.

“It’s something I don’t enjoy too much, I get nervous, I get worried. You can’t control anything when you’re on the side of the pitch, while when you’re in amongst it you’re distracted more, you’re just focused on the challenge in front of you.

“I thought Frawls went very well, didn’t he? It was great to see it. I don’t think anyone had any doubts about him, he’s an incredible footballer. We’ve all seen it for Leinster, and the small bits that he’s got a chance with a green jersey as well.

“He’s got a bit more time at 15, and I think there were probably a few question marks around who would play there with Jimmy and Mack out, but we were all very confident in him.

“It was great for him to get settled in early and get a try as well. I was delighted for him,” he added.

Energia ambassador Hugo Keenan was speaking as part of Energia’s #HalfAFan campaign. As proud partner of the Ireland Men’s and Women’s rugby teams, Energia understands that being a partner to both teams means showing support for both – so don’t just be #HalfAFan.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

Continue Reading

6 Nations

‘It’s A Great Appointment’ – Farrell On Murphy’s Move To Ulster



With Dan McFarland stepping down as Ulster head coach this week, it has been confirmed that Murphy will take over the role on an interim basis following the conclusion of the Under-20 Six Nations Championship.

The Ireland Under-20s are in title contention again thanks to two opening wins, with Murphy having overseen back-to-back U-20 Grand Slam successes and a World Rugby U-20 Championship final appearance in the last two seasons.

Farrell first worked alongside Murphy when they were defence coach and skills and kicking coach respectively, during Joe Schmidt’s coaching reign with Ireland.

The pair have kept up a strong connection with Murphy continuing for a short while as a specialist kicking resource for the senior squad, and the Under-20s often training with Farrell’s men during the Six Nations window.

“I think it’s a great appointment. I think Richie will do a fantastic job (at Ulster), his rugby knowledge is second to none,” commented Farrell.

“He is a very experienced guy that has been an assistant for quite some time and I know that he worked with us for a short period before we went to the Under-20s, but that was his next step to take that type of mantle on and do it his way.

He has certainly done a fantastic job. I mean, coaching the Under-20s is coaching in its purest form, it’s bloody difficult because of the swapping and changing the whole time each year.

“It shows exactly the quality that he’s got and his knowledge of the whole game. I think the players up at Ulster there will love him.

“His attitude is great but first and foremost I think they will respect his knowledge, definitely.”

McFarland was in charge of Ulster since 2018 and guided them to the PRO14 final two years later. They looked to be finding form again with a trio of wins over Racing 92, Connacht, and Leinster, coming into the New Year.

However, last Sunday’s poor 19-17 defeat at the Ospreys was their third loss in a row, leaving them eighth in the BKT United Rugby Championship, and came just a few weeks after failing to reach the last 16 of the Investec Champions Cup.

Assistant coach Dan Soper will take the reins for their next URC fixture at home to the Dragons on Saturday week, before Murphy comes on board for their two-match tour to South Africa where they will play the Hollywoodbets Sharks and the DHL Stormers.

The Bray man will have to quickly get up to the speed as the Ulstermen then travel to Montpellier in the EPCR Challenge Cup’s round of 16, just after Easter. Given the people involved, Farrell is confident they can turn things around at Kingspan Stadium.

“Look, it’s obvious that we want all the provinces playing at the top of their game. If that happens, it’s a special place to be but it doesn’t tend to happen that often, does it?

“One thing I know for sure is that Ulster have got a fantastic squad and good people up there. The lads that we have within our squad are exemplary to the province, as far as their attitudes are concerned whether they’re playing or not.”

A dislocated toe, suffered during that loss to the Ospreys, means Iain Henderson is unavailable for Ireland’s clash with Wales on Saturday. His Ulster colleague, Stuart McCloskey, is one of only two backs on the hosts’ bench as they opt to return to a six-two split.

New-look Wales, who lost their first two games to Scotland and England by a combined three points, come to Dublin with a squad that has accumulated 662 caps, compared to Ireland’s 1012.

119 of those caps are provided by George North alone, while 21-year-old Exeter Chiefs lock Dafydd Jenkins continues as captain, and Cardiff back rower Mackenzie Martin could make his debut off the bench.

Asked what he is expecting from Wales this weekend, Farrell replied: “Playing against Wales, you know it’s always going to be a scrap.

“You know that every single time Wales play against Ireland, it means probably a little bit more to them, I’ve been told (that) over the years.

“So we’re aware of that, and we also know as well that Wales historically have got better throughout the competition.

“We’re five weeks into it come the weekend, from when we first started training. We know that they’ll be better and hopefully we’ve used our time wisely as well.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

Continue Reading

6 Nations

Wales team to face Ireland in Dublin named



Senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland has named the Wales side to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the third round of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 24 February (KO 2.15pm live on ITV and S4C).

There is one change to the starting XV that played England at Twickenham on 10 February, with Sam Costelow returning for Wales at fly half.

Among the replacements back-row Mackenzie Martin is in line to win his first senior cap this weekend and would become the 1,200th Wales men’s international.


Tight-head prop Dillon Lewis would be making his first appearance of this Championship if called on from the bench.

Gatland said: “We are excited to go out to Dublin and test ourselves against one of the leading sides in world rugby. It’s a challenge we are relishing.

“We’ve made steps in the last couple of games and now it’s about building on that, learning from those experiences and taking that into this weekend.

“It’s about continuing to work hard, looking for accuracy in our performance across 80 minutes and also keeping our discipline.”

Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 24 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on ITV and S4C.
15. Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 56 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 119 caps)
12. Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 34 caps)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 16 caps)
10. Sam Costelow (Scarlets – 9 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 55 caps)
1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 27 caps)
2. Elliot Dee (Dragons – 48 caps)
3. Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby – 4 caps)
4. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 14 caps) Captain / Capten
5. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 53 caps)
6. Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
7. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 15 caps)
8. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons – 45 caps)


16. Ryan Elias (Scarlets – 40 caps)
17. Corey Domachowski (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Harlequins – 54 caps)
19. Will Rowlands (Racing 92 – 30 caps)
20. Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby – uncapped)
21. Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 19 caps)
22. Ioan Lloyd (Scarlets – 4 caps)
23. Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)

Images & Content – Wales Rugby

Continue Reading