Andy Farrell believes the Irish management’s most difficult task this week will be keeping a squad of angry and frustrated players on a tight rein ahead of Saturday’s must-win second Test with Australia.
Ireland’s defence coach has been delighted with the squad’s reaction to last weekend’s first-Test defeat to the Wallabies in Brisbane, their first loss since March 2017.
The 18-9 reverse means Joe Schmidt’s side must win in Melbourne this Saturday morning to prevent a series defeat and from what Farrell has seen it will mean the coaching staff keeping a lid of their players’ emotions ahead of kick-off at AAMI Park.
Asked today about how the squad had responded to Saturday’s defeat, Farrell replied: “Pretty well, pretty much as you’d expect a good side to take a defeat like that. They’re pretty angry, grumbly, walking around like bears with sore heads.
“We’ve had a couple of meetings and they understand the reasons why, as individuals and collectives, certain things happened. You forge a plan and, once you have a plan in place you head forward.
“The key for the rest of the week is working out how to hold them back.”
Last Saturday’s series opener was a bruising battle of physical intensity but Ireland’s only fitness concern ahead of the second Test is Keith Earls, who failed a Head Injury Assessment after an accidental elbow from opposing wing Dane Haylett-Petty during an aerial challenge.
“There’s a few bangs and bruises as you would expect from a Test match like that, a few people that we need to nurse through the start of the week,” Farrell said.
“They’ve been through their protocols very well today, there’s no problems.”
Of more of a concern to Farrell were the two tries and the disallowed effort from Israel Folau that breached the Irish defence during the opening Test.
Rating the defensive performance, he said: “Decent at times, but that’s not good enough at this level in the sense that they are a very, very good attacking outfit.
“We knew that before the Test, we knew that they would be very hard to contain.
“It felt like we did that by and large, but you’ve got to be consistent with it. They hit you on the break very well. They play quick, especially at the breakdown, etc.
“We’ve things to work on, but by and large to keep them to a couple of tries – albeit get away with a few that were disallowed – isn’t too bad because Australia are pretty used to scoring tries.
“We need to do better at the weekend, there’s no doubt about that.”