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Unknown territory for Ireland

Wednesday, 11th March, 2020 3:52pm

For a second week running, the Irish rugby team won't be in action. The precautionary measure, following the outbreak of the coronavirus, means that Ireland’s ties against Italy and this weekend's tie against France in Paris have both been cancelled.

The inevitable postponement of the Paris game was confirmed on Monday this week, leaving the Ireland squad in limbo over the conclusion of the Six Nations tournament.

As things stand, England and France sit top of the table on 13 points, followed by Scotland on ten with Ireland in fourth place on nine points. Head coach Andy Farrell’s charges have played one game less, and with France's loss to Scotland at the weekend, the championship is very much up for grabs from an Irish perspective.

Head Coach Andy Farrell said: “We’re a team that is still in control of our own destiny so it’s not a bad place to be. Everybody knows that the Six Nations is unbelievably difficult and everyone judges us on our performance.”

“At the end of the day we are two wins from three and so are a couple of other teams and some teams are below that. Regarding the outcome of those games, our destiny is still in our hands.”

A 35 man squad assembled this week at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre ahead of the Franch match, and despite the disappointment of another week without a match, Farrell said the group understood the need for the decision.

“It is what it is. You can’t do anything but the right thing. (We're) gutted. We’ve built up for a couple of weeks on the back of a disappointment and we were looking forward to the week ahead. We had some good chat setting up our week nicely and we’ve come off the indoor training field and we get the news.

“We’re disappointed it’s not going ahead but we understand fully. It’s all good. It’s all in the bag, isn’t it? That last couple of weeks’ preparation. We shall make sure we harness that and then we’ll catch up on the bits we’ve missed out on in the not too distant future.”

Farrell will now have to wait until July for his fourth international outing with Ireland with a trip down under for the summer Test series against Australia.

Farrell and his side are now facing the prospect of an unusually busy period in autumn with the rearranged fixtures likely to be penciled in before the Test series in November. The Ireland players also have provincial commitments during this period with Farrell saying it could be a hectic time both on and off the field.

“We thought we had two games to play before the Australian tour, but that’s not to be. The boys will slot back in with their provinces in the not too distant future and there will be some big games coming up between now and Australia. We don’t know where we are going to be in a month’s time, never mind in a few months’ time.

“There’s a plan in the back of our minds, but plans change along the way as well. You’ve got to look at the whole picture of the November calendar from our perspective. We’ve got three really tough games coming up. We’ve got the two against Australia, and then South Africa, Australia and Japan in November.”

“It’s a tough old five games and then you’re throwing in what is effectively, hopefully, a semi-final and a final, regarding the Six Nations. It changes the goalposts a little bit so it does take some reflection.”

Meanwhile with confirmation that Munster's Joey Carbery will miss the rest of the 2019/20 season following ankle surgery, Farrell says he is confident that the 24 year old talent can regain fitness and form in the coming months.

“I’m gutted for Joey. He’s been through a lot over the last few seasons, but I’ve spoken to him a couple of times and his luck will turn. It will. He needs to do the right thing and get himself fully fit and we’ll make sure that we help Munster to try and make that happen. He’s a great human being for one, and he’s a class player as well.”

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