Ireland: Andy Farrell insists players will not be underdone for Six Nations

Colin Newboult

Ireland boss Andy Farrell has responded emphatically to suggestions that his players will not be match sharp for the start of the Six Nations.

Due to Covid, a number of postponements have denied several members of his squad game time at provincial level ahead of the tournament.

It could give the upper hand to Wales in their opener, but Farrell believes that their Autumn Nations Series campaign showed that they could produce excellent performances off the back of very little club action.

And, with wings James Lowe and Jacob Stockdale the only major absentees for the championship, the Englishman is content just to be relatively injury-free.

No excuses

“If you asked me: ‘do you want most of your guys fit and raring to go and ready to play compared to, say, playing the last eight games and being injured?’, we’d rather everyone on board,” said Farrell.

“So it is what it is. We went through this in the autumn, didn’t we? Everyone was talking about our lack of game time.

“There are no excuses, you’ve just got to get on with it and we’ll be raring to go as a group.”

Farrell’s 37-man squad are currently fine-tuning preparations for the tournament at a camp in Portugal.

Ahead of flying out, Ulster lock Iain Henderson – who has not played since sustaining an ankle issue on December 17 – was the only member of the travelling party not expected to immediately begin full training.

Captain Johnny Sexton also put a positive spin on potential rustiness within the group, while pointing out that the issue is not unique to Ireland.

“I think there are a lot of other countries in exactly the same position,” said the fly-half, who has made only one start for Leinster since Ireland’s autumn fixtures following injury and a coronavirus infection.

“And the good thing for us is we’re in a very similar position to November.

“That was my concern coming into November that we hadn’t played enough because normally when you come into November you’ve had two European games, which are obviously a higher quality and closer to international level.

“We didn’t have that in November but the way we trained and prepared allowed us to hit the ground running and, to have a competitive environment like we do here, training can be as tough as a game sometimes.

“Like Andy said, no excuses. We’ve done it before and you can look at it two ways: you can say you’re underdone or you can say you’re really fresh and raring to go.

“I think we’re in that bracket. We’ve had enough rugby, guys have been training hard, certainly in the environment I’ve been in.”

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