Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell says the national team management will continue to work closely with the four provincial Head Coaches to maintain Irish Rugby’s excellent player welfare model through what promises to be a busy 2020/21 season, culminating in next summer’s Lions Tour to South Africa.
Six Nations this week announced details of Ireland’s rescheduled 2020 Championship fixtures, with Farrell’s side set to return to action against Italy at the Aviva Stadium on 24th October before concluding the campaign in Paris against France on 31st October.
Six Nations also confirmed a unique eight-team competition, involving the Six Nations unions and two other international teams, will take place this Autumn, meaning Ireland’s fixture schedule for the remainder of the year, and leading into the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, will be a particularly busy one.
While welcoming the prospect of such an exciting calendar after the season ground to a sudden halt back in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Farrell said Irish Rugby is well positioned to manage the workload of the players because of the strong relationships between the provinces and the national team management that exists.
“It’s a long old season,” Farrell said on a media call yesterday. “Obviously it starts a lot earlier and finishes when we thought it would do, culminating in a Lions Tour for hopefully quite a few of our lads. What we do very well in Irish Rugby is, first and foremost, put the player where they should be and that’s right at the top.
“Player welfare in Ireland has been the envy of world rugby and we’ll continue to make sure we look at the playing group as a whole and the individuals on an individual basis as the season unfolds. We’re very lucky, we’ve got four provinces that get on really well and at the heart of that is player welfare. The communication that we have between the provincial Head Coaches and myself is second to none and we’ll do the right thing by the players, there’s no doubt about that.”
During a wide-ranging conversation with members of the Irish rugby media on Thursday, Farrell said he was ‘gutted’ for the Ireland Under-20s following the news that the U20 Six Nations will not be completed in 2020, with Noel McNamara’s side bidding for back-to-back Grand Slam titles.
Ireland had recorded three victories from three before the Championship was suspended in March, most memorably defeating England in Franklin’s Gardens. Six Nations this week said “due to season scheduling constraints, it was decided that the three outstanding matches would not be played and there would be no winner for the 2020 Championship.”
“I’m gutted for them,” Farrell added. “There were performing so well. We trained against them and obviously when they were in the IRFU High Performance Centre we got to see them quite a bit as well and they were in full flow.
“They certainly wouldn’t have wanted the break and I’m certain as well when the break came they were praying they were going to get back playing as soon as possible and the longer the break goes and the news that it’s not going to be finished is heartbreaking for them.
“But I’m sure the experience that those lads have had, certainly in the last game when they performed unbelievably well against England away, I’m sure that will stand them all in good stead for their careers in the future.”