Farrell's approach key to Irish success
REACTION: Ireland’s unprecedented Test winning run is as much to do with the “emotional intelligence” of head coach Andy Farrell as it is to do with the coaching on the training ground said veteran prop Dave Kilcoyne.
The Irish will bid to follow New Zealand and England in becoming only the third top-tier nation in rugby history to win 18 successive Tests when they face the All Blacks in next Saturday’s blockbuster World Cup quarterfinal.
Their last loss came against the All Blacks on July 2 last year; they then came from behind to secure a historic two-one series win.
Other celebrated achievements during the run include the Six Nations Grand Slam and beating defending world champions South Africa in their World Cup Pool B match in France.
Little wonder Farrell’s side are, along with hosts France, the British bookmakers favourites to become only the second Northern Hemisphere side – after England in 2003 – to lift the Webb Ellis trophy on October 28.
Kilcoyne says the passion and teamwork the side shows on the pitch comes from Farrell’s radical changing of the set-up when they are off duty making it a “fun” place to be.
Under the 48-year-old Englishman’s predecessor Joe Schmidt, there was an austere and regimented atmosphere, very much modelled on his former profession as a school teacher.
“He’s created an unbelievable environment,” said Kilcoyne of Farrell.
“He’s a very fun person but he’s also so emotionally intelligent.
“When you’re on, you’re on and we love that about it.
“It’s such a high-octane, driven environment but when you’re off, people really enjoy each other’s company. Everyone is encouraged to be themselves and you really get to know people.
“You get to know their family, their background, there are families who come into camp and he’s made a real family-orientated team.”
Schmidt’s ultra-disciplined set-up was reflected by their style on the pitch which brought success including the 2018 Grand Slam but when things did not go to plan, like at the 2019 World Cup, the team was all at sea.
(Article continues below Ireland presser …)
‘Beautiful dressing room’
Farrell’s side, by contrast, reflects the more relaxed atmosphere and has shown they can adapt to changing circumstances on the pitch.
“We don’t want to let the person beside you down,” said Kilcoyne, who miraculously reached the 50-cap milestone in February having thought his career might be over in 2022 due to a serious neck injury which resulted in him losing the feeling in one arm.
“You want to play and make sure you give the person in the dressing room beside you the utmost respect because that’s what they deserve, because you know they’re doing the same for you.
“He’s [Farrell] created that environment and it’s incredible to be part of.”
Kilcoyne, who says it is the “best Irish side” he has been involved with, highlighted Farrell’s empathetic qualities in how he organised celebrating Peter O’Mahony’s 100th cap in the week leading up to Saturday’s 36-14 thrashing of Scotland.
O’Mahony, at 34 the same age as his Munster teammate Kilcoyne, had not wished for a fuss to be made of it but Farrell decided otherwise.
“Faz is so emotionally intelligent, you don’t gloss over something like that,” said Kilcoyne.
“To get 100 caps for your country is an incredible achievement so we did make a big deal of it.
“We had his family in during the week, we watched a video of his clips, he gave a little talk and lads talked about him and it was a real beautiful dressing room to be a part of and witness that.
“Faz brought this in when he came in and it’s very emotional when you get to see it.
“It’s great, and lads want to go out and put in a performance for them then at the weekend.”