Rugby

Andy Farrell: Falling short of Grand Slam is ‘best thing’ for developing Ireland

Farrell’s men retained the Guinness Six Nations title by beating Scotland 17-13.

Ireland were crowned Guinness Six Nations champions for the second successive year
Ireland celebrate winning the Six Nations Ireland were crowned Guinness Six Nations champions for the second successive year (Brian Lawless/PA)

Andy Farrell believes falling short of back-to-back Grand Slams will be the “best thing” for the development of his triumphant Ireland squad after masterminding another title success.

Farrell’s men retained the Guinness Six Nations trophy on Saturday by beating Scotland 17-13 in Dublin to bounce back from having their 100 per cent record extinguished in agonising fashion against England.

Ireland’s current crop of stars are largely unfamiliar with losing thanks to a remarkable run of 33 wins from 37 Tests during the past three years.



Head coach Farrell feels last weekend’s 23-22 Twickenham defeat will ultimately prevent complacency creeping in moving towards a two-match summer series against world champions South Africa and autumn appointments with New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji and Australia.

“It was a fantastic campaign for this group and we’re continuing on from where we left off and trying to improve as a group,” he said.

“But we all know things change year on year as far as personnel’s concerned and injuries and whatnot, staff leaving, staff coming in, new staff.

“I reckon the loss last week will be the best thing for us as a group because some of these lads, subconsciously now, not through their own doing, they’ve been used to winning.

Ireland celebrated Six Nations success
Ireland celebrated Six Nations success Ireland celebrated Six Nations success (Brian Lawless/PA)

“For some of the lads who are not used to losing at all, they get to point where they’re turning up for games actually thinking, ‘we’re doing it’.

“You’re never, ‘doing it’. You’re never doing it in the Six Nations because things changes week to week and that Test match last week was a proper Test match in Twickenham.

“We’ll learn the lessons from that and that will be powerful for us going forward like this one (against Scotland) was.”

Tries from Dan Sheehan and Andrew Porter, plus seven points from Jack Crowley, put Ireland on course for championship glory at the Aviva Stadium before Huw Jones’ late consolation set up a nervy finale.

Farrell, who will miss next year’s Six Nations campaign as he takes a break to lead the British and Irish Lions’ 2025 tour of Australia, is “unbelievably proud” of his players’ achievements.

“I’ve no doubt that Scotland will be proud of their performance but ultimately we’re delighted,” he said.

“It’s about winning championships for us and that’s unbelievably pleasing because it’s so hard to do.

“Everyone constantly talks about Grand Slams and we get carried away with it so much, back-to-back Grand Slams have never been done before, there’s obviously a good reason for that.

“But for us to be in a position to win back-to-back Six Nations is a nice feeling because it goes down in history for Irish rugby. We’re unbelievably proud of the group.”

Farrell may have to appoint a new captain when his squad reconvene to face the Springboks in July as current skipper Peter O’Mahony contemplates international retirement.

The Englishman is set for imminent talks with the veteran Munster flanker.

Asked if he will try to convince O’Mahony to continue, Farrell replied: “Whatever its right for him.

Andy Farrell, right, will hold talks with Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony about his future
Andy Farrell, right, will hold talks with Ireland captain Peter O'Mahony about his Ireland future Andy Farrell, right, will hold talks with Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony about his future (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I’ve been an unbelievably big fan of Pete all his career and we’ve a close enough relationship to be honest with one another.

“We’ve been talking about his career, certainly over when it’s getting to the end, for the last year. We’re realists as far as that’s concerned.

“I’ve no doubt we’ll chew the fat on all that over the coming days.”