Ireland's superior fitness and how Andy Farrell's bold selection made it count 3 weeks ago

Ireland's superior fitness and how Andy Farrell's bold selection made it count

"They did it, but they did it even better."

There was a moment, 39 minutes into Ireland's emphatic win over New Zealand, when referee Luke Pearce blew for a penalty and Johnny Sexton kicked, once again, for an attacking lineout. Andy Farrell would have enjoyed what he saw next.


All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor, despite having had 10 minutes in the sin-bin, had enough. For five minutes straight, with only one break in play for an Ireland lineout, the hosts had come battering and ploughing into the All Blacks' lines.

"It's relentless," declared Alan Quinlan, on commentary duty. "They're out on their feet."

Flanker Ethan Blackadder rested on his haunches for a moment too. "One defensive set," cried out scrumhalf TJ Perenara. "One defensive set!"

New Zealand survived, though, as Ireland botched the lineout. The whistle blew for half-time and the All Blacks still led 10-5. Somehow.

Many feared Ireland may have punched themselves out. They had tried to out-gas one of the best sides in the game. Not only did Ireland keep it up, they came back with even greater pace and intensity, and were rewarded with two tries and a Johnny Sexton penalty in the first 16 minutes of the second half.

On the latest House of Rugby URC [LISTEN from 12:00 below] Leinster and Argentina legend Felipe Contepomi and Greg O'Shea discussed how Ireland's superior fitness and how Andy Farrell's bold selection paid off.


Andy Farrell Head coach Andy Farrell pictured during Ireland captain's run, ahead of their win over New Zealand. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Ireland's fitness exposes flagging All Blacks

Greg O'Shea was in attendance at the Aviva Stadium for both of Ireland's recent wins over Japan and New Zealand.


He admits to being worried that Ireland were just having a 'purple patch' and the backlash from the Kiwis would follow.

"I was thinking," he said, "that New Zealand have to come back at some stage, but they never really did.

"There were their two tries, but then Ireland just kept coming and everyone was going, from props all the way down to Hugo Keenan at the back. Everyone was just up to 90. It was incredible.

"Remember a couple of weeks ago we said they played against Japan and they were pulling it out the back. There was two options all the time. And we were hoping would they do it against New Zealand?

"Well, they did it, but they did it even better. It was just up that little 10%, 15% more, wasn't it? And even the skills out of the props, like in phase play, you see Tadhg Furlong pulling it out the back to Johnny Sexton coming around. That stuff is amazing. It's great to see Ireland doing that kind of stuff."

Jamison Gibson-Park


Felipe Contepomi on fitness work and Andy Farrell scrumhalf call

With Contepomi working so closely, as Leinster backs coach, with so many Ireland stars, O'Shea was curious how much of a say Andy Farrell and his strength & conditioning staff have in the province's training routines.

"They don't have time to get into Irish camp to do fitness training," O'Shea began. "They're not going to do conditioning. So, does Andy Farrell  meet with the likes of yourself and get you to work with the players for the Irish team, or is it all separated?" Contepomi replied:

"Irish rugby is in really good health is that they are very interconnected in terms of fitness. Fitness coaches in the Irish camp are in touch with fitness coaches in every single province, so, everyone knows what they are doing.

"The Irish fitness coaches will know exactly what are the fitness levels that we work on every week. The same in Munster, the same in Connacht, the same in Ulster. So, they actually know what they need to, how they, what type of player they're receiving in terms of fitness, what it's like fitness-wise. That's very important.

"But, you need to take into account as well that we are in the first third of the season, entering the second third. New Zealand are at the end of their season - and a very weird, strange season in terms of how they travel and play that championship and so on. They've been on the road quite a bit. So, sometimes that could play a part, as well, you know."


To take advantage of Ireland's players being fresher than the end-of-season Kiwis, Andy Farrell then selected players like Andrew Porter, Ronán Kelleher and Caelan Doris from the start, and left veterans Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Peter O'Mahony and Keith Earls in reserve to finish out.

He also went for Jamison Gibson-Park, and his rapid-fire distribution, rather than the more kick-focused and strategic Conor Murray.

"There was a statement in the selection, too," said Contepomi. "Conor Murray is brilliant in what he does - world-class - but he has a certain type of game... but Ireland wanted something different. With Gibson-Park, they wanted to move the ball about quicker. It was a statement on how they wanted to play."

Watch that match back - and we're sure many Irish fans have - and you will see how quick the tempo was for the first hour, with Gibson-Park pressing his foot to the floor.

One was rest assured that New Zealand will be planning a triple dose in return when Ireland, at the end of this season, fly to the Land of the Long White Cloud for their three-Test series.