As good nights at the office go, this was just about perfect for Andy Farrell.
aving watched his young Ireland team bounce back against the Maori All Blacks in a wet and windy Wellington, all the while building the momentum leading into Saturday’s Series decider, Farrell also had welcome news on the injury front.
Firstly, he was able to keep the majority of his bench in reserve, which is ideal considering several of them will be needed again this weekend.
The Ireland head coach also received a major boost, as Peter O’Mahony passed HIA 3 today, and will be available to face the All Blacks, while Finlay Bealham was pulled from today’s game as a precaution after suffering a tight calf.
Farrell was delighted with the character of his side, as they were impressive in securing a well-deserved 30-24 over the Maori.
“These boys have been dying for a game for the last 13 days and for it to finally come around and for them to improve and get a big W on the board is very pleasing for them going forward,” he said.
“The focus has been on both games, both teams. there’s been no disparity there whatsoever. It’s been quite easy really. We’ve been pretty lucky.
“Obviously we’ve had things going on in the background with a few different knocks and injuries but we’d a pretty healthy squad going into tonight and on the back of that a pretty healthy squad going into the rest of the week as well.”
The Test team trained separately today, and there is no doubt that they will have gotten a big boost by the manner of how the younger, less experienced players stood up against tough opposition.
“The mood’s good anyway,” Farrell maintained.
“It does help when you win but it’s all about improving the performance and togetherness and growing as a group and it helps when you win a Test match. The mood would have still been great anyway.”
“It was exactly the same tonight. If the boys had lost tonight, we still would have learnt and pushed forward. It’s about growing the group as we’ve talked about non-stop on this tour and we feel that we’ve done that anyway.”
The Ireland boss has learned a lot about his squad depth over the last few weeks and he was hugely encouraged by the improvement of the younger players.
“We will see what comes of this,” Farrell said.
“It is up to the players to dust themselves off, go on holidays and whet their appetites to start pre-season training and get off the blocks with a bang because they understand what it is like to be a top-line international player.
“And then according to how pre-season goes, how they start pre-season, how they start the season, they have to put their hand up in the first seven games to get selected for the Autumn Series.
“It is up to them now to have the hunger because they know what it is all about now, they know what is expected of them. So, it is over to them.
“I was more pleased with the team performance because the obvious thing to learn from the first game is that some lads were pretty desperate to show everything that they got; they understand that it has always got to be team first, not just discipline with the referee but discipline in how they play the game and our discipline was pretty poor in that first game and a little bit desperate at times.
“They have learned a lot because the conditions were brutal out there; the wind was swirling everywhere and for a young side to be able to manage their way through a game when things aren’t going right the whole time, I thought that was tremendous,” Farrell added.
“You look at the discipline we had as far as territory is concerned and how our set-piece was handled, I thought they managed the game together as a whole really well.”
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