Andy Farrell expects World Cup referees to be “red-hot” on foul play and says Ireland are striving to be rugby’s most disciplined team in the wake of another England red card.
Ireland benefited from the dismissal of England number eight Billy Vunipola on Saturday evening to retain their spot at the top of the global rankings by easing to a 29-10 win.
Vunipola’s second-half sending-off, for a high tackle on Andrew Porter, came a week on from team-mate Owen Farrell’s headline-grabbing red card against Wales.
England also had players sent off in their previous two fixtures with Ireland, with Charlie Ewels departing prematurely at Twickenham last year and Freddie Steward ordered off at the Aviva Stadium during the Six Nations in March, albeit that second decision was later overturned.
Ireland head coach Farrell feels there are “cards everywhere” at the moment and is determined to ensure disciplinary issues do not damage the World Cup ambitions of his Six Nations champions.
“It’s a red card that somebody will have a look at and make the right decision,” he said of the Vunipola incident. “It is what it is.
“We’re seeing more and more of that. It just highlights for us massively that it isn’t just the tackle height, it’s discipline in general.
“There are cards everywhere at the minute, isn’t there?
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“And there’s a realisation as well that at the start of a competition, certainly in World Cups, referees are always going to be red-hot on stuff.
“So making sure that we’re the most disciplined side is something that we’re chasing down.”
Farrell welcomed back the bulk of his star names for their first international action since clinching Grand Slam glory against England five months ago.
Tries from Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose in a disjointed first half paved the way for victory before James Lowe, Mack Hansen and Test centurion Keith Earls added further scores following Vunipola’s 53rd-minute exit.
However, Dan Sheehan’s first-half departure due to a foot issue left Ireland with some cause for concern, particularly with fellow Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher currently sidelined.
Farrell, who brought on Rob Herring in place of Sheehan, concedes the situation may become a worry but believes there is plenty of talent in reserve.
“Possibly, possibly,” he said. “Ronan’s going to be fine. The extent of Dan we don’t know.
“We’ve had Diarmuid Barron in camp as well, Tom Stewart’s been going great guns, so we’ll be fine.”