Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball


Ireland risk complacency in search of continuity with team selection

Ruaidhri O'Connor broke down the stubbornness of the Irish coaching staff ahead of the second New Zealand test.

Ruairi O'Connor joined Off The Ball to react to Ireland's team announcement for the second test in New Zealand.

Ireland played well for 30 minutes in the first test against New Zealand.

It all fell apart during the final 10 minutes of the first half. New Zealand didn't score in the second half, but all Ireland could do was make the score less flattering in their favour. Andy Farrell will point to the performance of his team rather than the scoreline to justify picking largely the same group of players for the second test.

Mack Hansen replaced Keith Earls in the starting 15. Rob Herring and Finlay Bealham take their spots on the bench.

While Farrell can argue this is Ireland's best team, it's not a form team nor is it a team that diverges from last week's performance in anyway. Hansen brings physicality that Earls doesn't, but that alone shouldn't change the pattern of the performance.

Ruaidhri O'Connor explained Andy Farrell's thinking.

"Andy Farrell is there to win," O'Connor said.

"He firmly believes this is the team that is going to beat the All Blacks, that is most capable. He clearly doesn't have trust or faith in the reserves and we're only going to find out about them when the front liners get injured. And I think that's wrong.

"You've brought players as part of the 40...Every player whose on that plane should be a viable option for the test series. If you lose and concede six tries, then surely there is scope to change the team."

Farrell is a continuity coach. He believes picking the same foundation over and over again will improve the performances as the team builds patterns and familiarity with each other. But there's a fine line between building continuity and complacency.

Right now the Irish starters are comfortable. Save for one or two players, they all know that they will start if they are healthy.

"At least send a message to your players that this is an unacceptable level. You're all great players, you will play for Ireland again if you prove yourselves. But you can't concede six tries in a test match and play the next week.

"This is not a team full of grand slam winners who've achieved a lot as a collective."

What's most concerning is that this damages both the short and long-term outlook for this Ireland team. But it's also a shared trait between Farrell and his predecessor Joe Schmidt. If Ireland can't adapt and improve, they will regress just in time for that familiar World Cup feeling.

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Andy Farrell Ireland Rugby Joe Schmidt Keith Earls Mack Hansen New Zealand