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Farrell focused on ‘getting back into high gear and being our best’

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As well as Ireland’s ‘A’ curtain raiser against the All Blacks XV, more than 50 players are expected to don the green shirt in the coming weeks as the new international season kicks off.

Farrell is loving being back on the front lines this week, working with the reunited squad at the IRFU High Performance Center after watching the early rounds of the BKT United Rugby Championship and successful Emerging Ireland tour.

Asked about his ambitions for the Bank of Ireland Nations Series, he said: “As always, improvement (that’s the ambition). There are so many improvements that we want to prove to ourselves that we can do it first, so it’s great to be back after watching the URC for a few weeks now.

“It’s great to be back and to have this week to get back up and running properly and to dust ourselves off and figure out where we’re trying to go with our game and where we’re trying to push because we’re proud to try and get ourselves back up to speed as soon as possible.

“It’s, as we all know, the art of international rugby because nobody really cares whether you have five days or six months of preparation.

“So to get back up to speed for that first game and be at our best, that’s where we want to be, and I think we all know that’s where we have to put together a good team like South Africa. South.”

Since Farrell’s first game in charge against Scotland in early 2020, he has made his international debut at 25 players. Twelve of them are in the squad for the next three tries at Aviva Stadium.

Caolin Blade, Shane Daly, Max Deegan and James Hume, who have all been capped in the past two years, are also part of the Irish “A” panel.

By the time the Irish ‘A’ contingent enter camp next week after Round 7 of the United Rugby Championship, there should be a clearer picture of a number of players who are currently nursing knocks.

The IRFU injury update released yesterday was quite positive, especially for Joey Carbery who, following a shoulder injury suffered in Munster’s derby defeat to Leinster, is expected to train fully this week.

“Just so he can get back up and running and practice as a team and barking orders at him, that’s what a general always does,” Farrell commented on Carbery.

“For Joey, having that peace of mind to get back up and running is pretty reassuring for everyone.”

Five players, including the Leinster duo Jamison Gibson-Park and Hugo Keenanwill be returned to training this week, while experienced forwards Tadhg Furlong (ankle) and Peter O’Mahony (neck) have yet to complete their rehabilitation programs.

On the likely availability of Furlong and O’Mahony, the Ireland head coach admitted: “Yes, confident but there are certain stages they will have to go through.

“They stopped in not too bad a state and they will go through a process and we will see how they are early next week.”

He added: “There’s a lot going on but, in general, the feeling is among the medical staff that people are progressing very well. Most people should be back this week, if not by the end of the week.

“Then there are a few that we will continue to assess throughout. So pretty decent news came in last night and medical checks this morning. Not a bad place to be.

The South African tour squad will be announced on Friday, after a three-day training camp which ended today in Stellenbosch. Their ‘A’ panel travel to Cork next week, ahead of their game against Munster.

“It was a fantastic camp, and it gave the coaches the perfect opportunity to get the players focused on the Ireland Test next week and the upcoming SA ‘A’ games,” explained Rassie Erasmus, manager of the rugby in South Africa.

“It was also valuable in the sense that it exposed new players such as Manie (Libbok) and Sacha (Mngomezulu) to our structures and to see them in action as we finalize selections for the Springbok and SA ‘A’.

“The Springboks face the two best teams in the world on successive weekends in Ireland and France, and Italy and England are always forces to be reckoned with, especially at home, while Munster and Bristol are top clubs and will test the SA ‘A’ team to the hilt.

With some of his freshly assembled Irish squad at various stages of recovery, Farrell said no one has been left out of competition for Saturday’s showdown with the Springboks.

“We’re building the week gradually as we go, so Thursday-Friday is going to be a big couple of days for a few of the players. We’ll just wait and see,” the Wigan man admitted.

“Some players don’t need a lot of playing time, some players are able to hit straight from the start.

“Some players need five or six games to start. It’s up to us to assess that. We’re not a big pool of players either, so sometimes it’s necessary. Certainly no one is left out at this stage.

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