Andy Farrell is expecting Wales to be at their “brilliant best” for Ireland’s opening Six Nations clash.
Wales struggled under new head coach Wayne Pivac in 2020, coming fifth in both the Six Nations Championship and the Autumn Nations Cup, winning just three of their nine test matches.
However, the Ireland head coach is expecting the Welsh to bounce back in 2021, insisting that his side will not take the 2019 Grand Slam champions for granted.
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“We expect nothing but Wales being at their brilliant best come a week on Sunday,” said Farrell.
“I’ve no doubt that after the autumn they were dying to get back into camp through Christmas and show everyone that they’re contenders in this Six Nations.
“They’ve got a few people back from injury and that is key to them going forward… They’ll be very confident come the first game, I’ve no doubt,” Farrell said at the Six Nations virtual media day.
Farrell has stuck with a largely familiar squad for the upcoming tournament, but has brought in two uncapped players in Craig Casey and Tom O’Toole.
The former England international explained that the current coronavirus restrictions impacted his decision in bringing in development players.
“Because of the limited time we have and the testing and everything that has to happen before we get into camp… we want to have a 36-man squad that are fully operating and running by the beginning of next week.
“We want to give everyone the best chance possible to do that,” Farrell explained.
Paul O’Connell’s impact
The most notable new addition to the Ireland camp is former British and Irish Lions captain Paul O’Connell.
The former Munster lock was noted for his prowess in the lineout during his playing career, but Farrell insisted that O’Connell will bring far more than lineout expertise to his coaching staff.
“The reason Paul’s been brought in is to add to the group – and that’s the group as a whole. Obviously the coaching group – he’s certainly going to add to that.
“Obviously his remit is with the forwards now. He’s a specialist lineout guy as we all know but he’s also more than that. His remit will obviously be forward-orientated and lineout comes in with that.
“He’ll work closely with [scrum coach] John Fogarty and all aspects of forwards play. Obviously, along with that his remit is also to he’s across the whole game because we like to be integrated as coaches as well,” Farrell commented.
Ireland kick off their Six Nations campaign at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff when they face Wales on February 7.