The All Blacks may be once bitten, but that certainly won’t make them twice shy, according to Andy Farrell.
The Ireland defence coach is a man well acquainted with wounded Kiwis, so his theory New Zealand will show their teeth against Italy tonight in response to last weekend’s loss in Chicago is one worth noting.
Credited for playing a major part in England’s 2012 victory over the All Blacks, Farrell fell just short of helping the English claim back-to-back wins over world rugby’s greatest force.
Despite competitive displays over the course of five subsequent matches between the teams, the English could not shoot down the Kiwis a second time during his spell with his home nation.
But after greatly contributing to ending Ireland’s 111-year wait for bragging rights over New Zealand, Farrell is eager to repeat the trick next weekend once tonight’s clash with Canada is done and dusted.
The Ireland defence coach reckons the All Blacks will bite back in Italy tonight ahead of the rematch with Ireland, so battle plans are already being drawn up.
“There’s a wounded animal that’s going to Italy this week,” said Farrell. “Some of their big ones are having a rest, they’re going to be ready next week so again the size of the challenge has gone up.
“Every week you’ve got a plan, it’s not the same plan that you put out whether you’re playing Canada, New Zealand, Australia. There’s always a different plan, you tend to make sure you’ve got something in your back pocket, so it’s not the same old, same old.
“New Zealand are the masters at looking at what went right and what went wrong and having their own plan and doing something different.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re not just ready for that, but ready to take on our own plan and input that as well.”
After trying and failing to claim two famous wins in a row over the All Blacks with England, Farrell admitted he has taken some valuable lessons from that experience across the water.
Recalling England’s win, the Wigan native said: “There is a performance like that in every team. There’s always something else to push on to. There’s always a way of getting better. You review the game in every single department.
“The experience Ireland have got, especially with a couple of guys coming back this week, we’re able to cope with learning how to win these big games and continue to do that.”
After last weekend’s historic win, Lions chief Warren Gatland expressed his desire to get both Joe Schmidt and Farrell on board for next summer’s campaign.
Schmidt has ruled out taking up any Lions role as he will concentrate on Ireland’s tour to the US and Japan in 2017, but the Ireland coach did give Farrell his blessing if he is offered a role by Gatland.
“It’s nice to get Joe’s blessing because if I weren’t getting his blessing, I wouldn’t be going putting my foot forward for anything,” laughed Farrell at yesterday’s Captain’s Run at Aviva Stadium.
“Look, it is irrelevant at this moment in time… We had a tough week preparing a side within a couple of sessions last week. It’s even tougher this week. The challenge is more difficult to make sure we’re cohesive this weekend against a good Canada side.
"That has to be the focus — the rest of it [the Lions speculation] is irrelevant at this moment in time,” added the Ireland defence coach, who expects a real test against Canada tonight.
“They’re big strong ball carriers,” noted Farrell. “If you look at the two wingers - DTH van der Merwe and Taylor Paris - they’re as good as anything.
“They’re strong. They’re experienced… It is going to be a tough test. We’ve got to be on the ball for 80 minutes,” added Farrell, who reported that Ireland have no fresh injury concerns ahead of tonight’s match.
With three debutantes starting against Canada and five uncapped players on the bench tonight, it is all change for Ireland. Captain Rory Best is among the many players rested, so Munster’s Peter O’Mahony takes up the armband.
The 27-year-old stand-in skipper claimed the fresh faces in Schmidt’s Ireland team could set a template for the international side.
“I think you’re looking at a team tomorrow that will probably be the bedrock of the team for the next foreseeable future,” said O’Mahony. “I think it’s in a healthy place, but I think we’ve got to be careful.
“This is a big challenge against Canada and yes we have a good team on paper and it’s an exciting team but we’ve got a big challenge.
“We’ve got a big challenge defensively. We’ve got a big challenge to break these guys down because they’re very experienced and they’ll go for 80 minutes. They’ll go for 80-plus.
“I’m looking forward to it but I’m looking forward to seeing how big a challenge they put up,” added the Munster captain.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved