Andy Farrell set his stall out when he named “a hell of a team” for his first game as Ireland head coach against Scotland in the Six Nations on Saturday.
There had been much debate over who would get the nod at the start of Farrell’s reign following the agony of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup failure.
Just over three months after Joe Schmidt’s reign ended with a 46-14 World Cup quarter-final drubbing at the hands of New Zealand, Farrell showed he is ready to do things his own way when revealing his hand for the clash at the Aviva Stadium this weekend.
The dual-code international put his cards on the table ahead of schedule, handing a start to uncapped number eight Caelan Doris with Ronan Kelleher poised to make his debut off the bench.
Conor Murray kept his place over the in-form John Cooney, with Johnny Sexton leading the side following Rory Best’s retirement.
While the names in the 23 were always going to be the main topic of discussion, Farrell very much made a statement with his tone and timing of the delivery.
He has had plenty of time to consider his approach to being a head coach after serving as an assistant, having been named as Schmidt’s successor in November 2018.
Asked about naming his first team earlier than expected, the straight-talking Englishman replied: “I’d rather just get it out there and get on with the week.”
Watch: An exclusive interview with Andy Farrell on his team selection for Ireland’s #GuinnessSixNations opener.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) January 28, 2020
The 44-year-old added: “There is a little bit of paralysis through analysis. You can look too much into things the whole time.
“It doesn’t bother me about putting a team out there because that’s all I’m bothered about, our team. Backing ourselves. You’ve got to make a decision and we’ve got a hell of a team going into Scotland.”
There has been talk around the Ireland camp about a freshness that Farrell has brought after Schmidt’s glorious spell in charge came to an anticlimactic end.
Ireland headed into the World Cup on top of the rankings and it is only two years since they won the Grand Slam.
Although they were unable to live up to expectations in Japan, you only have to look at the bench for the showdown with Scotland to see the strength in depth Farrell can call upon.
Peter O’Mahony, Cooney, Robbie Henshaw, Andrew Conway and the recalled Devin Toner are among the replacements.
Farrell has spoken of his intention to take Ireland in a “new direction”, and there is surely no doubt he has the experience and passion to make a seamless step up to the top job.
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