Fri 5 Feb 2021 | 05:13

Ireland coach defends under-fire Wales

Ireland coach defends under-fire Wales
Fri 5 Feb 2021 | 05:13
Ireland coach defends under-fire Wales
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REACTION: Andy Farrell has rubbished claims in Ireland that Sunday’s Six Nations opener versus Wales in Cardiff will be easy.

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A media spat fired up earlier this week when it was claimed by one Irish media pundit that the Welsh were rubbish and would be easily beaten.

“They have fallen so far in the stocks of this show that they don’t even merit a mention on the week where we are going to thrash them,” claimed Off The Ball show host Ger Gilroy.

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That boast was taken to task by Adam Jones, the former Wales prop now coaching at Harlequins, who retorted: “It’s disrespectful to say we are going to get thrashed by a team which hasn’t won a Grand Slam in a while. That sort of thing does p*** me off a little bit.”

Now Ireland coach Farrell has weighed in on the heated debate surrounding this meeting of his team – which has a six-wins-from-nine record from 2020 – going up against a Wales team that has a three-wins-from-ten record under Wayne Pivac.

“I don’t believe that for one second,” said Farrell when quizzed on whether Wales were as poor as they have been made out to be. “Our boys are very familiar with everyone that is in the Welsh squad. They play against them all the time.

“Some of them are good friends and we know what top performers they can be when they are under pressure. This is the start of a new competition and they will be wanting to right some wrongs. They are an experienced side that has been in good positions before and difficult positions before. The slate will be wiped clean at the start of a competition and this is a huge game for both teams.”

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Farrell’s response was wise in the sense that Ireland’s three away performances last year – defeat twice in England and another in France – were poor under his command while a standout statistic as they head to Cardiff is how they have not beaten Wales away in the Six Nations since 2013, former coach Joe Schmidt’s team beaten there in 2015, 2017 and again in 2019.

“I suppose that’s the way of the world, we’re realists and understand that is what happens,” said Farrell about some of the media narrative surrounding Sunday’s match. “But within the two camps we know the truth, we know it is going to be a war of attrition at the weekend.

“We know that we haven’t won there since 2013, which says a lot, and we are expecting Wales to be 100 percent at their best. We have played them at their best before and come unstuck, so we are preparing accordingly.

“Listen, I suppose it doesn’t really matter what goes on in the papers or on the news in the coming days. The game will still be the same. Both teams will kick-off and both teams will try and gain the ascendancy. It means a lot to both sides so we expect it to be a tough old battle.”

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By Liam Heagney, @RugbyPass

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