Legendary Irish fly-half and captain Johnny Sexton has come out in strong defence of his team and coach, stressing that he does not believe that Ireland have gone backwards under head coach Andy Farrell in the latter’s first year in charge.
Farrell took over the Irish national team at the end of last year after Joe Schmidt stepped aside after a disappointing 2019 World Cup campaign. Prior to said World Cup, however, Ireland had done great things under Schmidt and, lately, there has been a growing notion amongst their fans that the quality of the side is in recession.
Of the 8 test matches the Irish have participated in this year, they have won 5. However, it has been their inability to beat England and France which has raised concerns.
According to a report in irishmirror.ie, Sexton had the following to say:
"No, well...if you look at our results, we've lost twice to England away and to France away, we won the rest of our games.
"So if you're talking about results, which is what Test match rugby is about, if we win on Saturday...there have been plenty of Irish teams in the past that have lost in Twickenham and lost in France.
"Were they games we could have won? Maybe not the first Twickenham game. But the second one and the French one, we definitely feel like there's things that we did that got away from us.
"And England were in a World Cup final, they're probably one of the better teams in the world at the moment and we have to get up to that level.
"Are we going backwards? Well, not if you compare it to 2019. To go and compare it to 2018, then obviously (when Ireland reached number one in the world rankings)...but we went backwards in 2019 - the same team went backwards.
"So we're just saying what we feel. I know you guys (the media) don't agree, but we feel like we're progressing and we need to show it and that's where the gap in opinion is, really, that we're getting some big learnings and doing some great things in training, some bits in games where we're talking about playing well against Wales at home.
"But again, in bits and pieces, we need to put out the 80 minute performance with the finishing touches because we feel - and we can show you some video clips if you want of us creating lots of opportunities that we're not finishing - and that's the big learning for us, when there's opportunities at Test level you've got to take them.
"And when they're as clear cut as the ones we are creating, we have to take them. That's what we feel, you can disagree if you want but that's where we are."
Ireland face Scotland on Saturday in the final round of the Autumn Nations Cup.