The Three Biggest Decisions Andy Farrell Has To Make As The New Ireland Boss

New era.

Ireland’s 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign ended in misery on Saturday morning and serious questions once again are being asked. Another quarter-final exit with the men in green once again failing to show up when it really matters.

It’s disappointing in more ways than one because we all know Ireland are much better than they were against New Zealand on Saturday. We saw that last November. In fact, we saw that for the duration of 2018.

2019, however, has been a different story altogether. Ever since that first Six Nations game against England – Ireland have looked a shadow of their former selves. Have teams simply worked out their game plan or have they just fallen flat after such highs in 2018?

In any sport, getting to the top usually isn’t the hardest part – staying there is. Consistency and success are two completely different things. Raising your game is one thing, doing that week in, week out is another.

As Steve Hansen has said in the past – when you reach the top you automatically have a target on your back. The hunter becomes the hunted. You’re now the team that everyone wants to beat. Some teams can handle that, others can’t.

Ireland have not become a bad rugby team overnight. But from what we’ve seen in 2019 – they’re not as good as we all thought they were. It’s as simple as that. That doesn’t mean you tear everything up and start again, but it does mean you still have to go back to the drawing board.

Joe Schmidt leaves having failed to get past the quarter-final stages of the World Cup in two attempts. But that’s now how he will be remembered. And rightly so. What he has done for Irish Rugby is incredible. Now it’ over to Andy Farrell. And he’s inherited a damn good set-up.

The 44-year-old has been part of Ireland’s coaching ticket since 2016 and has done an excellent job on their defence. Sure he’s not perfect but he’s got a hell of a lot more green in his ledger than red.

So what next for Ireland under Farrell? As I said, there’s no need for him to completely change everything, but he does have some really big decisions to make in the coming months that could make or break the next World Cup cycle for Ireland.

Firstly Farrell needs to be very careful in selecting his next captain. Peter O’Mahony is the obvious choice but James Ryan is another strong candidate. O’Mahony is a proven leader but at just 23-years-old, Ryan could lead Ireland at the next three World Cups. O’Mahony was just 24 himself when he was made Munster captain and it’s proven been an inspired choice.

The old stock.
This one is complicated. It’s not one big decision, but more so a series of them. Ireland have a number of players in their squad at the moment that might not make the next World Cup. The likes of Cian Healy, Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney are not getting any younger. Does he bide his time or do Ireland look at getting someone like Jordan Larmour in at 15 straight away? Is it time Carbery was handed the torch at 10 just like O’Gara passed it to Sexton after 2011? Perhaps it’s time to start picking players on form, not reputation. Look at the All Blacks. They have no issue handing someone their Test P45 no matter who they are.

The game plan.
Everyone has said it at this stage – Ireland have become predictable. Well, to be honest, it’s hard to make a case that says otherwise. It doesn’t take an expert to see something has to change. Aimless, uncontestable kicks. One out runners. The Sexton wraparound. Over-reliance on the pack. Shall I go on? Farrell, along with his new coaches (Mike Catt, John Fogarty) need to think outside the box and start coming up with some fresh ideas. It’s time to let the leash off. As the saying goes – let the boys play.

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