Andy Farrell says Ireland must develop a clinical edge to become a “world-class” team after suffering their worst start to a Guinness Six Nations campaign.
The Irish are bidding to salvage some pride in the competition following disappointing defeats to Wales and France.
Head coach Farrell insists the situation is far from doom and gloom and hopes his side can take a giant stride forward during Saturday’s game against perennial wooden spoon winners Italy.
7 Changes. 50th cap for @henshawrob & 2 new caps on the bench. Here's the details on the Ireland team to play Italy (with the correct graphic this time😀)#ShoulderToShoulder #ITAvIRE #GuinnessSixNationshttps://t.co/5fyv51kcXq pic.twitter.com/4Bbnu3vRNY
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“There’s quite a lot right within our game but it all comes down to having a clinical edge at this level, right at the top,” he said.
“Our fight and want and will to impose ourselves against the opposition has been top-class.
“The finishing clinical edge is always the missing ingredient of any team that wants to be world-class, so that’s what we are striving for and hopefully we can make a jump in that direction this weekend.”
Ireland’s only Championship tries so far have come from forwards Tadhg Beirne and Ronan Kelleher, with Farrell calling for greater spark from his backs following the loss to Les Bleus.
Opponents Italy have lost 29 successive Six Nations fixtures dating back to 2015 and are the only other team yet to win in this year’s tournament.
Farrell has made seven changes for the trip to Rome, including recalling skipper Johnny Sexton and vice-captain James Ryan following head injuries.
The Englishman believes his squad possesses world-class individuals but feels teamwork is crucial in order to realise that quality.
“You have to be a team-first player and if you are a team-first player, which our guys are, and you gel together then you start to get world-class players on the back of that. And that’s where we are at at this moment in time,” said Farrell.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 24, 2021
“Of course we have got world-class players within our group but as a unit the stronger we are, the more the individuals will come to the fore.”
Conor Murray is the only injury absentee in Farrell’s squad, meaning Jamison Gibson-Park retains the scrum-half role, with uncapped Munster number nine Craig Casey hoping to make his Test debut from the bench.
The return of 35-year-old Sexton at fly-half sees Billy Burns back among the replacements and Ross Byrne left out altogether.
With question marks surrounding Sexton’s ability to play on until the 2023 World Cup, Farrell needs adept alternatives for the number 10 jersey.
Munster fly-half Joey Carbery, who has not played competitively since January 2020 due to a string of injury problems, has been named on his province’s bench for Friday’s Guinness PRO14 clash with Cardiff.
Farrell is thrilled with that news but intends to be patient with the talented 25-year-old, who has 22 international caps.
“I’m absolutely delighted for Joey. I know first-hand what he’s been through over these last couple of years and he has worked so hard to try and get back and on a few occasions it’s not happened for him,” said Farrell.
“What we need to be cautious about is giving Joey the time. He’s been out for so long, he’s so keen to get back in there to do well.
“If you give him the room and the time, let him get a number of games under his belt, I’m sure Joey will come back to be the player we all know he’s going to be.”