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23rd Feb 2023

Andy Farrell did not even entertain one question about Italy in his press conference

Patrick McCarry

Ireland squad

“No. No. It’s completely different to then.”

Andy Farrell was much more interested in discussing how the current Italian team ‘tore Australia apart’ than delving back deeper in time.

The media assembled at the Radisson Dublin Airport Hotel, this afternoon, and picked the brains of the Ireland head coach before allowing him to join up with his squad, and back-room staff to fly out to Rome.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Ireland’s team announcement against Italy is so few gripping headlines it produced. James Ryan is captain and Ross Byrne is starting outhalf, having been fifth choice back in November, but we knew both of those were coming on Wednesday (and even before that).

Bundee Aki and Craig Casey replacing Stuart McCloskey and Conor Murray in the starting XV were the only two eyebrow-twitching moments and that is stretching it – both men are deserving of the starts after playing important bench roles so far in this Six Nations.

So, it was not a huge surprise that many of the team selection calls were not teased out too much with the Ireland coach. That left more time to ask about Italy, although Farrell gave short shrift to one question.

Andy Farrell

Andy Farrell focusing on current Italy threats

Just under four minutes into his press briefing at the hotel, Andy Farrell was asked if any of the squad’s players or coaches that were involved in the 2013 Six Nations loss to Italy had addressed that matter.

Back in 2013, in what would prove to be Declan Kidney’s final game as Ireland coach, Italy beat their visitors 22-15. Injuries and yellow cards had Ireland down to 13 men, at one stage, with Peter O’Mahony in as emergency winger.

From the latest Ireland squad, for round three of the championship, O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Dave Kilcoyne and Iain Henderson were involved. Had any of that quintet told horror stories to this Ireland squad?

“No,” said Andy Farrell. “No. It’s completely different to then. Completely different.

“The respect that we have for Italy is exactly where it should be – really high. The development of what they have shown over the last 12 months has been super impressive. We’re in for a tough game… this is a proper Test match for us.”

Farrell says Italy look ‘a lot fitter and a lot more cohesive’. He believes they play with renewed energy and belief and while he praised Ange Capuozzo for ‘making something out of nothing’ he was focused on the team contest.

Since March of 2022, Italy have beaten Wales, Romania, Portugal, Samoa and Australia. The win over the Wallabies was narrow on the final scoreboard, 29-27, but Farrell insists ‘they ripped Australia apart’.

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