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Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

17.40 3 Dec 2020


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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has enlisted some outside assistance to help his players deal with the mental rigours of international rugby. 

Farrell's brought back his big guns for Saturday's Autumn Nations Cup 3rd place playoff with Scotland.

Captain Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Peter O'Mahony are among six players restored to his starting XV.

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Farrell's position has come under scrutiny as an underwhelming autumn draws to a close. Defeats to France and England were followed last week by a lacklustre 23-10 win over Georgia.

A 3-point second half has been called "not good enough" by many within the camp this week, with Farrell the latest to echo those sentiments.

But as he continues to find the right blend with his side, he's brought in some outside assistance to aide the players' mental preparations.

Gary Keegan is a veteran of Irish Boxing, having drafted their first high performance plan. He's also worked with the Dublin footballers and Cricket Ireland and has been widely praised for his motivational speaking.

Speaking ahead of the Scotland game, Farrell says Keegan's been drafted in to help with his squad.

"From a mental performance/preparation aspect, it is something we are touching on constantly, that we've help with along the way," the head coach told his pre-match press conference.

"Stress comes from people wanting to put their best foot forward when they're given an opportunity.

"How you deal with that, that's our job and the help we get from the outside as well to be able to help them along with that stress."

Farrell says Keegan's been with the side "for some weeks", and has been "doing a fantastic job".

Former Ireland manager Mick Kearney has also been helping the players in a mentoring capacity, and in his work with Keegan, Farrell says, "We're well on our way to starting something there that's going to help in our future."

"Gary's mental skills - in far as helping how that translates to performance - is what he's second to none at," the former Wigan man added.

"His whole connection piece regarding the whole squad, and bringing all the squad - the management and playing squad - together is a big part of his remit."

Farrell suggested the work of Kearney and Keegan is "at the start of the process" of the implementation of the findings of the 2019 World Cup review.

Along with the mental aspect of preparation, Farrell is sure things are beginning to come together for him on the pitch, regardless of what the second half against Georgia may have said.

"We've seen snippets, haven't we," he said, "What we have done is creating a lot of chances.

"Converting those chances is a work-on for us, and it's something we've been working hard on."

Gordon D’Arcy: ‘We’re being left in the dark’ | Irish rugby’s big questions | OTB AM


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Autumn Nations Cup Cian Healy Gary Keegan Ireland Jonathan Sexton Robbie Henshaw Scotland

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