Farrell warns Ireland have 'a long way to go' to reach their peak despite Grand Slam triumph

By Sports Desk March 20, 2023

Andy Farrell believes Ireland have "a long way to go" before reaching the peak of their powers despite winning the Grand Slam.

Ireland were crowned Six Nations champions on Saturday after beating England 29-16 at the Aviva Stadium.

Farrell's side are top of the rankings following 10 consecutive victories and will be expected to mount a strong challenge to win the Rugby World Cup for the first time in France later this year.

Yet the Ireland head coach is demanding more from his players after they celebrated a fourth Grand Slam triumph.

"I said to you in New Zealand, 'now this was the start of our World Cup year'," Farrell said.

"The most pleasing thing is that we've continued to be successful. To find a way. Everyone was nervous about that except us.

"This is part of the journey, isn't it? Obviously this stands on its own right, as does the New Zealand tour.

"But it's part of the journey of us as a group going forward into a World Cup. Like I said, we'll get two or three months pre-season training for the first time together and I expect ourselves to be better obviously because of that.

“We've carried on winning, is that the yardstick? I don't know.

"We just go on the performances and the performances were pretty good in New Zealand and we've continued to again find a way.

"It's never been perfect, but the game is not like that, so the mental strength of our game and large parts of our game are in a good place.

"There's a long way for us to go for us to be at our best which is a great sign."

Related items

  • Marcus Smith and Alex Mitchell boost England ahead of Ireland showdown Marcus Smith and Alex Mitchell boost England ahead of Ireland showdown

    Marcus Smith and Alex Mitchell have returned to the England squad ahead of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Ireland.

    Harlequins fly-half Smith is yet to feature in this year’s championship due to a calf issue, while Northampton scrum-half Mitchell twisted his knee in training after starting the victories over Italy and Wales.

    The pair linked up with head coach Steve Borthwick’s group last week for a three-day training camp in York ahead of the final two rounds of the Six Nations, and were on Sunday evening named in a 36-man squad to face Grand Slam-chasing Ireland at Twickenham.

    Exeter wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who scored a try as a replacement in Saturday’s 30-21 Calcutta Cup loss to Scotland, has also been included after missing the training camp due to having a medical exam at Exeter University which had to be completed face to face.

    England, who must beat Andy Farrell’s reigning champions to remain in title contention, conclude the tournament against France in Lyon on March 16.

  • Chandler Cunningham-South pleased to be reaping the rewards after a ‘big step’ Chandler Cunningham-South pleased to be reaping the rewards after a ‘big step’

    Chandler Cunningham-South is relishing every minute of the Six Nations maelstrom as he prepares to play a part in England’s daunting clash with back-to-back Grand Slam chasers Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.

    Cunningham-South’s gamble in leaving New Zealand, where he had lived since the age of four, to return to the UK two years ago has paid off handsomely with his ascendancy to the full England squad for the first time this year.

    His debut off the bench in the opening win over Italy, and subsequent appearances against both Wales and Scotland, have appeared to make the Harlequins flanker an integral part of head coach Steve Borthwick’s long-term plans.

    “It has been a really big step up for me and I think I have done all right,” said Cunningham-South. “I think I am the youngest in the squad and I have been taken under a few people’s wings.

    “I like it. Especially when we were up in Edinburgh getting off the bus – all the heckling and yelling. That sort of stuff motivates me and gives me an extra bit of energy.

    “Twickenham is awesome to play at. You don’t actually realise how big the stadium is until you are on the field looking up. It seems to not stop. It was awesome – so loud, so passionate, a real cool place to play.”

    Cunningham-South, who was born in Sidcup, decided to head back over to England to pursue his rugby career after finding his opportunities limited in New Zealand.

    But he admits he had big moments of doubt after arriving in the midst of the Covid pandemic and finding himself struck down with the illness more or less immediately.

    “I got the opportunity over in England and it all happened pretty quickly,” he added. “It was a weird time because I was stuck inside for 18 days with Covid and I was like, ‘Did I make the right decision?’ But once I had got rid of the Covid and got into training I knew I had done.

    “I suppose it’s not meant to be easy. Moving over at that age I was a little homesick at first, but when you are working hard and having fun with new friends it gets pushed to the back of your head and I have been loving every minute of it.”

    Cunningham-South initially joined the London Irish academy in 2022, representing England in the under-20 Six Nations in the same year, before moving on to Harlequins when Irish folded due to financial issues.

    His swift ascent up the England ranks was confirmed when he came off the bench in the narrow opening win over Italy and Cunningham-South believes he is beginning to reap the benefits of his big career decision.

    “I needed to develop a lot and that’s why I wanted to be a part of an academy set-up,” he added.

    “And there was a definite mindset switch – what it takes to be a professional is very different to when you are playing uni rugby. I didn’t realise how much detail goes into the professional game. It was a bit of a shock, but it’s been good.”

  • Wales forward Mackenzie Martin hopes to be a role model for the Ely community Wales forward Mackenzie Martin hopes to be a role model for the Ely community

    Mackenzie Martin hopes he can be a “trailblazer” to inspire young people in Cardiff’s Ely community after making his Wales debut following just nine games of professional rugby.

    The 20-year-old featured as a replacement in Wales’ 31-7 Guinness Six Nations defeat against Ireland.

    Ely, a western Cardiff suburb, has not always enjoyed positive headlines and was the scene of major riots in 1991 and 2023.

    Martin grew up on the estate’s Grand Avenue, and he is the latest sportsman to emerge from an area that can boast a portfolio containing Ryan Giggs, Steve Robinson and his fellow boxer Nicky Piper.

    “I hope I can be a trailblazer,” Cardiff back-row forward Martin said. “I hope the kids are going to look up to me.

    “When I went down there the other week, even before I made my debut, there were a good few of them copying my haircut.

    “They came up to me and were saying ‘I’ve got the same hair as you’ and that type of thing. All theirs looked better than mine, so I was a bit jealous!

    “Growing up, it wasn’t obviously the easiest, as anybody can imagine, but my family has always been great and I have learnt from them.

    “I was always going to work hard because I think my dad is the hardest worker I know. It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can still make something of yourself.

    “My dad worked in warehouses, he has delivered milk, he has done loads of things. He has always been on the go, so that gives me the inspiration to keep working hard.”

    Martin has a deep religious faith, and he added: “Everybody always thinks that rugby – not saved me – but that rugby put me on the right path. But it was God that helped me do that.

    “God put that opportunity into my life, so that is how strong my faith is and that is why I always say ‘all glory to God’ and stuff like that because I wouldn’t have had the opportunities without him.”

    Martin only made his professional debut in November 2023, but he has joined Cardiff team-mates Cameron Winnett and Alex Mann as exciting Six Nations newcomers.

    Such was Martin’s impact off the bench in Dublin that it would be no surprise if he is promoted to a starting place against France on Sunday week.

    And he will continue to be inspired by a player he describes as “the man” – 104 times-capped Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau.

    “Me and my dad always watched Wales together, and every time we would see him (Faletau) my dad would say ‘he is amazing’,” Martin said.

    “When I transitioned to the back-row when I was about 16 I was always just trying to follow in his footsteps and how he played the game.

    “Obviously, we are a little bit different as players, but it is still the way he works around the field and the way he carries himself. That was the inspiration.

    “He is one of the best number eights in the world – well, for me the best number eight in the world – so if I can even replicate that a little bit I would be doing myself proud.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.