David Nucifora: Pressure is on Andy Farrell to deliver in the Six Nations

The IRFU performance director delivered his report yesterday into how and why Ireland underperformed in Japan

David Nucifora: Pressure is on Andy Farrell to deliver in the Six Nations

David Nucifora insisted Andy Farrell was not tainted by Ireland’s failure at the World Cup but said the pressure would be on the incoming head coach to deliver from the outset, starting with the 2020 Six Nations.

The IRFU performance director delivered his report yesterday into how and why Ireland underperformed in Japan during September and October, losing to the hosts in the pool stages and falling once again at the quarter-final stage in a 46-13 hammering by the All Blacks.

The coaching staff led by then-head coach Joe Schmidt and including Farrell as defence coach came in for its share of criticism, not least for focusing the teams’ preparations too much on the opening pool game against Scotland, won 27-3, at the expense of the Japan game, a 19-12 upset just six days later, a result that heaped an already building “performance anxiety” on the players.

Yet while Farrell’s tenure as Schmidt’s successor was not tainted in Nucifora’s opinion, the upcoming Six Nations championship meant the new boss would not be getting a free pass or the opportunity to experiment.

“In international rugby and coaching the pressure’s never off you, you know,” Nucifora said. “It’s never off you.

“What does good look like (for the Six Nations)? I think performance-wise, first we want to see good performances that he and the players, and the supporters can be happy with and I think if the team can play to their ability I think anything’s possible as we’ve shown in the past.

“It will be a challenging enough Six Nations, I think. Coming off a World Cup, you’re not sure where everyone’s at, you’re not quite sure who’s going to turn up or how they’re going to turn up.

A few different coaches involved so it will be an interesting Six Nations with a few different permutations that could come out of it, so I’m looking forward to it.

As for the IRFU report on the World Cup, Nucifora added of Farrell: “Tainted by the World Cup? Why would he be tainted?

“No, I don’t think he’s been tainted at all.

“Like anything, you benefit from experience and, again, it might be harsh and it hurts but the benefit you get from losing, you actually learn more so he’s got that benefit and he’s now in charge of running the show.

“He’s a very experienced coach and he’s going to take all of those experiences in setting his own direction but, in saying that, he’s a smart rugby person as well and he understands what needs to be kept, he understands what needs to be built on but he also understands what he wants to do to put his stamp on things, going forward.”

While the report concludes that Ireland could have, with the benefit of hindsight, been more progressive in its playing style, the gameplan remained within Farrell’s prerogative, Nucifora said.

I think that’s a coach’s kingdom to work on that and decide how he wants that to pan out. I know he’s got a clear vision about where he wants to go and how he wants to do it.

“As I said earlier, he also understands that there are things that created those successes in 2016, 2017, and 2018 that you want to bank and try to improve some of them as well. Bank them and then add to them.

“I think that style of play will evolve over time, what he wants to get to. I doubt very much whether he’s going to sit here and say, ‘We’re going to do this and it’s going to look like this.’ I’ve never asked him that question but I know he has a vision.”

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