'I'm hugely proud of the lads' – Andy Farrell praises Ireland's character after victory in 'titanic' clash

Andy Farrell hailed his side’s character in the wake of their stunning 32-19 win over France at the Aviva Stadium.

he head coach described the meeting of the world’s top two teams as a ‘titanic’ battle, but it was France who were sunk in the end as Garry Ringrose’s try settled the game with nine minutes remaining.

Ireland were without four key players and lost Johnny Sexton, Rob Herring and Tadhg Beirne to injury during a hugely physical game, but they finished on the front foot to set up a tilt at the title.

“The character more than anything,” he said,

“We talk about the big picture stuff, the fight, they want to cover each others’ back.

“To show the togetherness, the spirit that we know we’ve got and show it to everyone else in world rugby was there to be seen.

“We could talk for hours in that regard about instances of people coming back and putting in performances like that when the chips are really down in big games. It shows a lot of character.

“The first half… wow, it was just end-to-end stuff.

“We all hoped it would be like that, but it certainly was. End to end.

“Even though I thought field-position was, we controlled it pretty well in the end. It’s not over until it’s over, until the 78th minute anyway.

“You’re thinking ‘we’ve won a Titanic game’ in that respect.

“I’m hugely proud of the lads, of what they’ve been through over the last few weeks.

“They dug in hard, it meant a lot to them today and it showed.”

The coach wasn’t entertaining World Cup talk after the game that saw Ireland outscore the hosts by four tries to one and beat them for the first time in this four-year cycle.

“It’s never been about that, it’s about us improving as a group. The realisation of where we’re at, where we need to get better and how hungry we are on a daily basis to try and achieve those goals,” he said.

“Everyone talked about the performance last week and I talked to the guys on Wednesday for their reviews, everyone to a man thought the performance wasn’t good enough.

“We’ll do exactly the same as this now, we’ll keep pushing the standards.

“That’s all that matters for us really.”

Farrell has spoken repeatedly about his team’s capacity to handle adversity, and again, there were unheralded players like Tom O’Toole leading the charge in the endgame, while Ross Byrne and Craig Casey steered the ship home.

“I remember in Portugal (for their pre-tournament training camp), we got up to speed that first week and we had a training session – 15 v 15 – and the team was already picked,” Farrell recalled.

“Johnny got the lads in after the session, (and) said, ‘You wouldn’t know which was the Irish team that was playing at the weekend’.

“That’s where we’re at.

“Therefore, the belief is real. You actually get to a point when you’re pleased that people get the opportunity to see where they’re at.

“That’s the stage we’re at, we’re trying to find out about each other.

“There’s a few injuries, a few people pulled out, but at the same time, look at the strength of the bench coming on today.

“It’s a mark of where we’re at as a group.”

Tadhg Beirne is likely to miss the Italy game with the leg injury that forced him off, while Rob Herring will go through the Head Injury Assessment protocols after the high tackle that saw Uini Atonio issued with a yellow card during the first half.

The prop was lucky not to see red, but Farrell held his tongue.

“He’s going through HIA. Obviously, Rob didn’t come back on, so there’s that to factor in,” he said.

“It is what it is, the referees are paid to make those decisions.

“Wayne and his team of four, the TMO, they couldn’t get any closer to the TMO to see it as it was.

“You’ve got to trust that call and they’ll look at it and do the right thing after that.”


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