Andy Farrell quickly puts his business face on

The question he was posing to the 36 players he had brought with him to The Campus at Quinta do Lago was whether they would follow suit and not only embrace the new and challenging environment but thrive in it.

Andy Farrell quickly puts his business face on

It was raining on Portugal’s Algarve yesterday as Ireland continued their pre-Six Nations training camp but nothing would temper the enthusiasm Andy Farrell was determined to bring to the party as he prepares for his first championship as head coach.

The question he was posing to the 36 players he had brought with him to The Campus at Quinta do Lago was whether they would follow suit and not only embrace the new and challenging environment but thrive in it.

That is what Farrell is seeking as he gets ready to name the first matchday squad of his tenure on Tuesday with the objective of a winning start to the championship against Scotland in Dublin and he believes the encouraging levels of form will feed into the competition for places he requires.

“It’s good because the players are in a great position; they’re playing well individually so they know they’re in the squad on merit. Two, they know they’re competing against people who are in form so competition for places is (intense).

“That’s where we want it to be, it’s a little bit uncomfortable but it’s nice to be in that position too. Competition for places is what makes any successful team go to places they want to go. Seeing how they deal with that type of pressure in an environment where the quality does step up — it 100 per cent does because of the quality of the play, the intensity of the sessions etc, and the experienced guys who have been there and done that is a different level for some people.

“But some people will thrive in that environment and those are the ones who will get selected.”

Nowhere is that competitive element more alive than in the battle for back-row selection. Munster’s Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander, and Leinster openside Josh van de Flier are the incumbents striving to hold off the gathering momentum of new rivals Caelan Doris and Max Deegan of Leinster, and Munster’s Jack O’Donoghue. The younger trio represents the form horses with O’Donoghue the only one of them with Test experience.

It is difficult to imagine all three featuring against Scotland but it was noticeable that Doris was the only one of the six namechecked by Farrell at Wednesday’s championship launch when asked about his back-row selection thoughts.

“They’re in form. I think Caelan is doing well. I had a chat with the young boys at the Christmas camp to say they made sure they put their best foot forward and make us pick you. That’s what they’ve done. It’s a different animal, the Test match arena.

"Coming into camp yesterday would have been a completely new experience. They would think that’s the first step done and the hard work starts now I think. How they perform in training over the next three days is going to be key in our decision-making for the team we pick for next week.”

As he faced the international media, Farrell, 44, described his new role as the moment he has been waiting for though he knows how he can remain most effective, regardless of the job promotion.

“I’m a coach, it’s my passion about putting a plan together and seeing how it works on a weekend,” the Lancastrian said.

“I’ll definitely be doing that, I’ve already made that out to the players, that I’ll be taking sessions and having hands-on most things is one of the key fundamentals of any coaching job really. I don’t plan to be in this (a suit and tie) too much.

I might be at the weekend, I’ve not made a decision on that yet but I tend to be in a tracksuit most days and that’s the way it’s going to stay.

Not that he was going to get a gentle, honeymoon period where the Six Nations is concerned but Farrell knows he has to hit the ground running. Asked what would constitute a good Six Nations for Ireland, he replied: “Progressing our game. Winning — it matters. We won’t shy away from that.

“If I told Johnny that he’s going into a game to play second fiddle to come away with a loss, he’d think I’d gone mad. So we want to win. At the same time, we want to develop our game, we want to keep improving and certain aspects will take a bit of time.

At the same time, we expect to perform.”

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