Andy Farrell explains his big team selection calls for England clash
The times they are a-changing.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has provided the reasoning and rationale behind some of his big team selections for the Autumn Nations Cup clash with England, at Twickenham, this weekend.
Farrell has made four changes to his starting XV, from the side that defeated Wales 32-9 last time out, and the big calls are in the second and back rows, as well as at 9 and 10.
For the first time in over NINE years, Ireland go into a Test match against an English side without either Conor Murray or Johnny Sexton starting. The last such occurrence was in August 2011 in a World Cup warm-up game that saw Eoin Reddan and Ronan O'Gara in the 9 and 10 jerseys.
For Farrell, he spoke about this Saturday's game being a prime opportunity for players with no more than a handful of caps to stake claims to be seriously considered for the big games to come over the next four months. He commented:
"I'm excited about it. There are a few changes in there, the big one being James getting to lead this side, and for guys getting the opportunity for first starts at Twickenham."
"Ross Byrne deserves it," said Farrell of the Leinster man starting at 10. "He deserves his chance. It's like others. How do you find out if they are ready for the big games and big occasions, without giving them a chance in the big occasions?"
Farrell's son, the England outhalf Owen Farrell, has often had battles and niggles with Johnny Sexton (out injured for this game). The Ireland coach is not fazed by the England 10 going after Ross Byrne too.
"I've no concerns whatsoever," he said. "He'll play his own game. Everyone is different. I've no concerns about Ross. He's very cool, calm and collected."
When asked about the medical concern that ruled Iain Henderson out of the Wales game, Farrell noted that it was 'a private issue that I'd leave to the medics and Iain'. Henderson is on the replacements bench with Connacht lock Quinn Roux starting beside Ireland's new captain, James Ryan.
"I 100% saw a curiosity in James in last 9 or 10 months of him maturing and his leadership within the squad... I saw something nine months ago, going into the Six Nations, that if people are talking about me in this vein, maybe I should do something about it. I've been really impressed with him over the past nine months."
On Hugo Keenan starting at fullback ahead of fit-again Jacob Stockdale, Farrell commented, "Hugo deserves another start again. His first time to start at Twickenham... we'll learn more about Hugo in that position after the game."
Asked if he could guarantee a real Irish fight at Twickenham, after three successive losses to England, Farrell stated"
"I can't make promises. I've not got a crystal ball. This is a different group... they can't wait to get out there and show what they can do."
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