TACK­LING A LIONS TOUR

Andy Far­rell ex­plains how to de­velop a de­fen­sive sys­tem de­signed to shut out the All Blacks in just a few weeks

Rugby World - - C O N O R M U R R AY -

FOR MANY on a Lions tour, par­tic­u­larly one to New Zealand, rugby can be so all-en­com­pass­ing that the op­por­tu­nity to switch off is as im­por­tant as the next train­ing ses­sion. Not so for Andy Far­rell; he is happy to be con­sumed by the sport.

“I’ll be sit­ting on a couch talk­ing about rugby,” he says of those times he’s not coach­ing or analysing match footage. “Lots of peo­ple feel they need a break but I’m very lucky and don’t feel I do. I love talk­ing about rugby, I love other peo­ple’s point of view and I love sharing ideas with peo­ple.”

Sharing ideas is the essence of Lions tours – he re­mem­bers the Ir­ish play­ers be­ing the most in­quis­i­tive in 2013 and has found the same now he’s Ire­land’s defence coach, say­ing: “They want to know why they’re do­ing things, how they can get bet­ter.”

Yet Far­rell also recog­nises the im­por­tance of start­ing the tour with a clear idea of what you want to do as a de­fen­sive unit. Make things too com­pli­cated and the play­ers won’t be able to grasp the in­tri­ca­cies in the tight time frame. “The ba­sis is sim­plic­ity – set­ting out what you want to stand for and not drift­ing too early off that. If you do, you’re still not stand­ing for any­thing. You get the base down, then work on adapt­ing and grow­ing that.

“Luck­ily enough I’ve had to do this a few times, get a new side to­gether. I did the Eng­land Sax­ons tour to Den­ver (in 2010) and that was a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence. You have a new side and play­ers you’ve never worked with, and you re­alise early that if you go in with all sorts of ideas you don’t get what you want. Build­ing your way through things is im­por­tant.”

Far­rell has worked with the ma­jor­ity of this squad be­fore, in his roles with Eng­land, Ire­land or the 2013 Lions. Plus, he has been part of two coach­ing teams to have beaten New Zealand: Eng­land in 2012 and Ire­land in 2016. Still, it takes a lot of work to de­velop a de­fen­sive sys­tem to try to con­tain the All Blacks.

Fam­ily man

The Far­rells at the Cham­pi­ons Cup fi­nal

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