Documentary catches Andy Farrell dressing room phone call after Ireland toppled All Blacks
"There was a moment where you looked in each others' eyes and knew it was really, really go time."
James Lowe captures what was in the air in Dunedin, earlier this year, when Ireland made history against New Zealand. It was at a venue where the All Blacks had proved unbeatable that Andy Farrell led his Ireland side to a remarkable triumph.
Back in 2016, Andy Farrell arrived in Ireland. He would eventually become assistant to Joe Schmidt but he first pitched up at Munster to do some 'advisory' work.
"Everyone from the north-west of England is from Ireland anyway," he joked, at the time.
"Coming to Ireland and living in Dublin is almost like going home for me. Just the people and family-type atmosphere."
Farrell and his wife both have Irish 'ancestry that goes back three or four generations' and he settled in quickly, and soon became indispensable to Schmidt. Still, under the Kiwi (and Stuart Lancaster before that), Farrell had his own thoughts on how he would lead whenever he was entrusted with the top job.
He succeeded Schmidt after the 2019 World Cup and endured as tough a start as one is likely to have - rebuilding a team with shattered confidence, bringing in new blood and dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on fixtures and training camps.
It took 15 months but the tail-end of the 2021 Six Nations showed glimmers of light. The championship was lost after early losses to Wales and France, but Ireland finished on a three-game winning spin, had an unbeaten summer and autumn, which included a thrilling home win over the All Blacks.
Ireland won the Triple Crown in 2022 but defeat to France, in Paris, cost them the championship, and a Grand Slam. They headed to New Zealand, last summer, with many supporters, and pundits, fearful of what the All Blacks could do to Ireland at the end of another long season.
Ireland, and their midweek side, lost their first two games and whitewash talk was a common topic, but Farrell has made his Ireland team of sterner stuff. 'Tackling the All Blacks' - a documentary set to air on RTÉ One on December 29 - shows two crucial Andy Farrell moments before the engrossing Ireland comeback began.
"The most important two hours of our tour"
After the 'A' side lost to the Maori All Blacks in the tour opener, Andy Farrell had to sit in the coaches' box and take in the All Blacks scoring six tries against his men.
Ireland lost that First Test 42-19 and lost captain Johnny Sexton to injury before the end of the first half. The documentary plays a snippet of Farrell's post-match comments to his beaten squad.
"We've got a day off tomorrow, but we really need to bring it next week. You know what? We can feel it. We can see it. There's bits to tidy up, lads, but we will be ON IT next week."
After that Sunday off, the players reassembled at North Harbour Stadium, in Auckland, to review that First Test defeat. Farrell was keen to emphasise how much right Ireland had got right against Ian Foster's side before conceding three first half tries in quick succession.
"I thought it was the most important two hours of our tour," said Peter O'Mahony, "how we broke that game down and saw what we had left out there, at times."
"If we could put our game out there," Tadhg Furlong commented, "the way we wanted it to be played, we'd be in the hunt."
Andy Farrell's speech before the Second Test
There was no 'A' game before the Second Test so all the squad's focus went into getting ready to tear into the three-time world champions at Forsyth Barr Stadium, in Dunedin.
The ABs have a historically strong record in 'Dunners' but had won all seven Test matches at the home of the Highlanders since they had moved from Carisbrook (the old 'House of Pain').
Ahead of the game, Andy Farrell delivered a rousing speech to his players:
"They need to know - when it counts - that we are ON IT, together, physically.
"How do we do that? You make sure that every single moment is [once] a minute, it's every, single second. Every, single second.
"You've a job to make sure that your teammates, either side of you, can feel that physicality is in your bones. That's what it has to be, as an Irishman when it counts. Because if it means enough, then it will count!"
Ireland went out and laced straight into the All Blacks, scoring an early try through Andrew Porter and never looking back. They went on to win 23-12 for their first Test triumph over New Zealand, on their patch.
"There were some boys that really stepped up that day," winger James Lowe recalled. "We were on one, that day, and we reaped the rewards."
Andy Farrell video call after Ireland's series win
With momentum on Ireland's side, following that Second Test victory, Andy Farrell took his squad to Wellington for the series decider.
The travelling party were buoyed by the 'A' side avenging that tour-opening defeat to the Maori XV. Those players celebrated victory, on the night, but knew they had a bigger task ahead, in preparing the Test team for the Third Test.
For the third game running, Ireland got off to a fast start. On this occasion, they were 22-3 ahead at half-time. New Zealand staged a mini fight-back but a brave decision to kick for touch resulted in a Rob Herring try that all but sealed victory. Ireland eventually finished 32-22 victors and became the first team in the professional era to win a Test Series against the All Blacks on their home turf.
Following the game, and with his team still out celebrating on the pitch, Farrell headed to the dressing room to make a video call. A fixed camera in the dressing room captures the moment as Farrell even breaks into song.
"What about that game? What about that, eh?! Whaddya think? Aye, Tommy, yes!!
"Ireland, IRELAND! See ya big guy! Yes. YES!!"
It is a lovely, personal moment and one of the stand-out pieces in the 50-minute documentary.
"You'll never do anything better than that," the Ireland coach tells his victorious squad, soon after that call. "You won't. That's the hardest thing in world rugby"
Tackling The All Blacks will air on RTÉ One at 6.30pm on Thursday, December 29th.
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