17 March 2023

Andy Farrell wants Ireland to stay calm against England as they chase Grand Slam

17 March 2023

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell believes “desperation is an illness” and has urged his players to maintain calm temperaments amid the intense pressure of playing for the Grand Slam.

The in-form Irish are on the brink of substantiating their status as the world’s top-ranked side going into Saturday’s crunch Guinness Six Nations finale against rivals England in Dublin.

Former dual-code international Farrell has plenty of career experience of big occasions as both a player and a coach.

While the Englishman welcomes the passionate backing of a partisan crowd at a sold-out Aviva Stadium, he wants his squad to avoid becoming caught up in the hype surrounding the contest.

“All this stuff that you guys (the media) are going to be writing, it all becomes part of the circus, you know, managing all that,” said Farrell.

“But in reality, anyone who has ever played in a big game, when you get over that white line all bets are off. It’s business time, isn’t it?

“All the emotion gets taken out after the first five minutes anyway and then you’ve got to be at your best.

“To me, desperation is an illness. You want to try and stay away from that.

“You can’t be accurate if you’re desperate. Being calm enough to be yourself and being controlled enough to be accurate when it matters is a temperament that we’re all chasing.”

Ireland are odds-on favourites to complete a flawless campaign against an England side reeling from their heaviest Twickenham defeat – last weekend’s 53-10 thrashing against France.

The hosts have never previously clinched the Grand Slam in the Irish capital as their 1948, 2009 and 2018 triumphs were secured in Belfast, Cardiff and London respectively.

Despite the opportunity to make history and a heavy burden of expectation, Farrell dismissed suggestions Ireland have “so much to lose” but concedes his side must deliver.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about from day one coming in that it’s not been done here,” said Farrell.

“We’ve earned the right to have a go at that so we know how much it means to the Irish people, and their support has been unbelievable for us.

“I hope there’s a bit of a two-way thing on Saturday where we try and get them going and they try and get us going as well. You can feel the buzz.

“That’s what we’ve done, we’ve put ourselves in a position to have a crack at this and it’s something that we’ve been up front about from the beginning, which is pretty pleasing.

“Now we’re here, we’ve got to deliver. The expectation of making sure our best is saved to last is key for us.”

Lock Ryan Baird, scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and centre Robbie Henshaw come into the team which began the round-four win in Scotland, with injured pair Iain Henderson and Garry Ringrose unavailable and Conor Murray dropping to the bench.

Hooker Dan Sheehan and number eight Caelan Doris are fit to start after being forced off in the early stages at Murrayfield.

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