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Farrell’s Ireland focused on peaking for World Cup after beating All Blacks | Ireland rugby union team


November has become synonymous with men growing extra facial hair for charity and Ireland beating the All Blacks. After 110 barren years they have managed three wins in the fixture, starting in Chicago in 2016. That they have all been out of competition is a point not lost in this constituency.

“If this is the peak, it’s no good for anybody,” Ireland’s captain, Johnny Sexton, said. “There is definitely room for improvement individually and you can see some of the stuff in the first half in terms of taking our chances. We could have scored a few tries in the first half. We need to keep our feet on the ground and keep improving. This is just the start and we need to keep building. The thing about beating New Zealand – it gives a lift to the country but you don’t get a trophy for it.”

Neither do you get passage to a World Cup semi-final, uncharted territory for Ireland, and already the target for the coach Andy Farrell at France 2023. Given Ireland’s ability to excel in the gap between World Cups there is already an exercise under way here in self-restraint.

Not that it was evident when Joey Carbery, Sexton’s replacement late in the game, slotted his second penalty with a minute left to make the game safe. Between the football match against Portugal last Thursday and the New Zealand game there were more than 100,000 punters in the Aviva in 48 hours. It sounded like both crowds combined when Carbery hit the target. It was front- and back-page news with the Sunday Independent calling it “Just Glorious”, and the Sunday Times telling us: “You better believe it”. Worryingly, The Irish Daily Mail declared it “A New Dawn”. Experience of World Cups would suggest six months out from the tournament is the optimum time for the break of day.

For Farrell, the prospect of eight wins in a row now presents itself in the shape of Argentina on Sunday. A few key changes in his pack have transformed the power surge around the field. Shifting Andrew Porter from tighthead to loose – where he started out his career – has been a huge success. The athleticism of Rónan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong now gives Ireland a world class front row.

Iain Henderson’s return from injury makes a big difference, but it was man of the match Caelan Doris who stole the show against New Zealand. Doris has had his issues with concussion and needed to take a long break to get himself right. He was outstanding, with and without the ball, keeping the All Blacks under pressure for long periods.

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“I was really impressed by their high tempo game,” the New Zealand coach, Ian Foster, said. “It kept us chasing and at the end, when it really mattered, we didn’t have the composure to take it [the chances]. They played a pressure game similar to several of the games we’ve faced them in before, so congratulations to them.”

Farrell will have to spread the love across the squad now and give game time to others in the 38-man group. If the World Cup is the ultimate goal then establishing depth is a priority and Sunday will shine some light on that. So will next summer. Ireland are due in New Zealand for a three-match Test series in June and July. It is described by one travel agent as “ideal preparation for Rugby World Cup 2023”. And of course it is – it might be better though to focus on getting out of there in one piece.

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