AP NEWS
ADVERTISEMENT

Farrell earned ‘average return’ in 1st year as Ireland coach

December 1, 2020 GMT
Ireland's Hugo Keenan is tackled by England's Maro Itoje during the Autumn Nations Cup rugby union international match between England and Ireland at Twickenham stadium in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)
Ireland's Hugo Keenan is tackled by England's Maro Itoje during the Autumn Nations Cup rugby union international match between England and Ireland at Twickenham stadium in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

DUBLIN (AP) — Andy Farrell’s first year as Ireland rugby coach has been graded as an “average return” by his boss.

Farrell has won five of eight tests this year and has one more remaining, the Autumn Nations Cup playoff for third against Scotland on Saturday at Lansdowne Road.

But the most recent performances -- a second drubbing from England at Twickenham this year and an unconvincing win over Georgia at home -- have drawn criticism for Farrell and assistants Mike Catt, Simon Easterby, Richie Murphy and John Fogarty.

David Nucifora, the Irish Rugby Football Union performance director, said despite his assessment Farrell and his staff continue to have his support.

ADVERTISEMENT

“They’ve been in and around international rugby between them for many years, either with Ireland, or England, or the (British and Irish) Lions, so we’ve got an abundance of experience here,” Nucifora said.

“If you look around at many other international teams, the years of experience that the guys have would stack up against any other coaching group.

“Once they get some stability and continuity with the team, we will start to see progress.”

Farrell has chopped and changed his teams to expand the talent pool in a new Rugby World Cup cycle, using 40 players, of which 10 were new.

Ireland led the Six Nations going into the last round but was well beaten by France in Paris and finished third.

In the Autumn Nations Cup, the good feelings generated by crushing Wales have been spoiled by the bland displays against England and Georgia.

Nucifora said following an unusual year broken up by the coronavirus pandemic, Farrell’s progress will be better assessed on results in the 2021 Six Nations.

And Nucifora said they have one aim: “We’re going to try to win the thing.

“We’ve had some really successful years and we’ll go into next year’s Six Nations with exactly that same ambition, to go out there and try to win the competition.

“We look at the performances that are involved in trying to achieve that, and that’s what things will be judged on.”

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports