Andy Farrell brushes off criticism ahead of Georgia test

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has brushed off criticism directed at the team following their 18-7 loss to England last weekend.

Former Ireland winger Shane Horgan and former England winger Chris Ashton were two high-profile names that questioned the Irish performance during the week.

Horgan questioned whether it would be better for the IRFU to relieve Farrell of his duties now rather than a year or two down the line, believing the head coach to be incapable of innovation.

Ashton was equally unimpressed with Ireland and directed special criticism towards James Lowe, who he called ‘too big and too slow’.

However, speaking at the team announcement today Farrell seemed unperturbed by those comments.

“Well, obviously they are more than entitled to their opinion. Again, for us, it is a priceless experience.

“Nobody gave us a chance when we went to England anyway and then we come away with an 18-7 loss when we all know what happened within the game.

“We probably lost our way a little bit at times and that’s what pressure does to you.

“One of the experiences of sticking to the task etc is always a good one going forward because these are the priceless experiences you take from playing in the big games.

“How do you get experience? Unless you get out there and feel it. Ross [Byrne] and James [Lowe], and many more, will learn priceless learnings from that,” Farrell said.

Farrell has made nine changes to the team that lost at Twickenham, with Billy Burns named to start at fly-half.

The head coach was excited to see the Ulster number 10 to get a chance for Ireland as well as a number of other players drafted into the starting 15.

“We’re excited to see Billy in his first start, he gets to run the show for the first time,” said Farrell.

“He has been in with us for a couple of weeks now and obviously been involved off the bench so this is an opportunity to grab a hold of the team and the game.

“That builds another bit of experience in that position as well. James Ryan captains the side for a second time after a big week for him last week.

“It’s a great opportunity for him to reflect on that experience and go again.

“Finlay [Bealham] playing at loosehead is something we have been thinking about for a while, and one or two others in that area as well because we need to build some background there, too.

“Finlay has been in fine form for us and he is certainly a guy that is able to get around the field and bring some physicality to his game so we are excited to see how he goes.

“Stuart McCloskey has been waiting for some time for his opportunity. We have been telling him for some time that the chance will come and when it does he has to be ready to take that opportunity,” Farrell said.

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