Rugby

Andy Farrell hoping Ireland can fire up crowd in Dublin homecoming against Italy

Ireland return to the Aviva Stadium for the first time since the Rugby World Cup.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is preparing to take on Italy
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is preparing to take on Italy Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is preparing to take on Italy (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Andy Farrell hopes Ireland can fire up a sold-out Dublin crowd and prevent a zombie-like atmosphere during their homecoming against Italy.

The reigning Guinness Six Nations champions are poised to play at the Aviva Stadium for the first time since an agonising World Cup quarter-final exit to New Zealand in October.

Tens of thousands of travelling fans celebrated each of Ireland’s pool-stage wins in France with rousing renditions of the team’s tournament anthem – Zombie by the Cranberries.

Ireland were backed by thousands of travelling fans at last year’s Rugby World Cup in France
Ireland were backed by thousands of travelling fans at last year's Rugby World Cup in France Ireland were backed by thousands of travelling fans at last year’s Rugby World Cup in France

Head coach Farrell wants to continue the special connection with supporters on Sunday afternoon when his side take on opposition narrowly beaten by England on the opening weekend of the championship.

“Well I hope they’re not patient in just being quiet and waiting to get going,” he said of the fans.

“I hope we can excite them in our intent and the way that we can go and play the game.

“Everyone who watched Italy’s game last week knows that they’re going to be a threat and I think our fans will certainly get behind our side.

“The first time (at home) since the World Cup warm-up games and it is something that the players have talked about and are excited about.”

Ireland launched their title defence with a statement 38-17 success over pre-tournament favourites France in Marseille.

Italy, who were defeated 27-24 by Steve Borthwick’s side in Rome the following day, have lost each of their previous 12 Six Nations fixtures on Irish soil.

Farrell has made six personnel changes to his starting XV and selected Caelan Doris as captain for the first time but dismissed any notion of over-confidence.

Italy were narrowly beaten by England last weekend
Italy were narrowly beaten by England last weekend Italy were narrowly beaten by England last weekend (Adam Davy/PA)

“You know me, I’m not disrespectful to anyone,” said the Englishman.

“It’s not the way that I am but, honestly, it is about us.

“It’s about us improving on last week and the expectation that we’ve got within our own four walls, of an understanding of how we kick on in all parts of our game.

“It’s genuine, it’s there, it’s obvious to see for us the levels that we need to get to, not just on the field but off the field as well.

Ireland romped to a five-try win in Marseille on the opening weekend of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations
Ireland romped to a five-try win in Marseille on the opening weekend of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations Ireland romped to a five-try win in Marseille on the opening weekend of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“The players are very honest and it’d be wrong for us to waste a week and not progress.”

Back-rower Doris leads his country from openside flanker having only captained Leinster for the first time in a 22-21 United Rugby Championship loss to Ulster on New Year’s Day.

The 25-year-old revealed he “annoyed” referee Frank Murphy that day by questioning decisions which turned out to be correct, an experience he and Farrell have discussed.

“We obviously speak about it,” said Farrell.

“Caelan is a humble type of guy and would always be his biggest critic, that’s what you would expect of someone who wants to learn and get better.

“I know that I made many a call and I probably wasn’t as humble as that on my first outing as a captain when I was playing.

“I’ve no doubt he would have learnt from that massively. He’s a thinker.”