Ireland head coach Andy Farrell regards attempted mind games from England counterpart Eddie Jones as unnecessary but admits to finding them entertaining.
Jones has sought to gain the upper hand going into Saturday’s crunch Guinness Six Nations clash by declaring the Irish “red-hot favourites” and the most cohesive team in the world.
Farrell worked under Jones at Saracens during his playing career before later being dismissed from his position in England’s backroom staff shortly after the Australian was appointed to his current role in 2015.
While the Englishman retains a healthy respect for his well-travelled weekend rival, he has no desire to become embroiled in what he regards as a needless pre-match battle of wits.
“I don’t know what it is. I don’t care, to be fair,” replied Farrell when asked about the intent behind Jones’ remarks and his reluctance to engage.
“I love Eddie’s comments, I love reading them. I think it’s great for the game and I love his character, his charisma. I’ve learnt a lot off him.
“As you know, I’ve worked under him, I’ve been the captain of the side for him and I like being in his company.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 6, 2022
“But, in answer to your question, I don’t see the need (to engage with it). I don’t get it sometimes.
“But I like reading it, I think it’s intriguing.”
Farrell was defeated on his two previous Twickenham trips as Ireland boss, both in 2020.
However, he masterminded a 32-18 Dublin victory at the end of last year’s championship to condemn England to a fifth-placed finish – their worst performance in the history of the Six Nations.
A repeat of that result this weekend would see Farrell’s men retain hope of championship glory going into the final round, while eliminating England from title contention and possibly casting fresh doubt on Jones’ future.
Farrell has guided the Irish to 10 wins from 11 outings since his own position was questioned last year and feels pressure comes with the territory.
“It’s certainly part and parcel of the modern game,” he said.
“We’re all under pressure the whole time and we all realise that. You look at Eddie’s record across his career, it is second to none, so that says it all really.”
🗣️ "There have been some tough decisions to make this week but we feel the balance of the team is a good one."
Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell on his team selection for Saturday's #GuinnessSixNations clash against England. 🟢#TeamOfUs | #ENGvIRE pic.twitter.com/Q88bk48jb0
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 10, 2022
Speaking about the increased scrutiny he faced 12 months ago, he said: “I never doubted anything.
“First and foremost, if you’ve been involved in top-level sport for long enough you realise you have to able to take the rough with the smooth and obviously the outside noise creeps in every now and again.
“But it’s up to you to realise what’s going to make your team better and that’s just you being yourself.
“I suppose experience just allows you to bat away the noise and get on with the job in hand and Eddie’s the most experienced man in world rugby at that.”
Despite Ireland’s recent resurgence, Farrell is still awaiting the first major away scalp of his tenure.
He has lost five of seven Tests on the road, with 2021 victories in Italy and Scotland the exceptions.
“It’s part of the next step for us as a team, making sure we go to places like this and be at our best, because we know that England are going to come at us and we know they’re going to cause us problems, but we’re confident in our own ability,” he said.
“We’re a good side. We need to make sure we’re able to be at our best on the day of what is going to be a fantastic occasion.
“We know that there’s going to be thousands of Irish at Twickenham as well and we want to hear them sing through our performance.”