Farrell targets 'strong finish' as Ireland chase Six Nations title

By Sports Desk October 08, 2020

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has urged his team to come out firing for their crucial final two matches in the Six Nations.

After a seven-month delay, Ireland will get to finish their campaign when they face Italy in Dublin on October 24 and France in Paris seven days later.

Should they win both matches and take a bonus point each time, Ireland will be assured of the championship, having won two of their three matches to date.

Ireland had been due to face Italy in early March and France later in the month, but the emerging COVID-19 threat saw those fixtures postponed.

Farrell, who named a 35-man squad on Thursday, must cope without prop Tadhg Furlong, who started Ireland's opening three matches in the championship, after he suffered a calf injury on duty with Leinster.

John Cooney has also missed out, with the Ulster scrum-half paying the price for a dip in form with Ulster, while Farrell has summoned six uncapped players, including New Zealand-born half-back Jamison Gibson-Park.

Farrell named his latest squad on the day his predecessor in the Ireland top job, Joe Schmidt, was named as World Rugby's new director of rugby and high performance.

With half an eye on the Autumn Nations Cup, Farrell said: "We have two competitions to play in over the coming months but will focus first on a strong finish to the Six Nations Championships.

"The return to rugby has not been without its challenges as some players have suffered injury setbacks and there has been limited playing opportunities ahead of a busy and exciting international window.

"We will be closely monitoring the form and fitness of players competing in the Guinness Pro14 over the coming weeks."

Farrell praised the "huge effort" that has gone into allowing professional rugby to resume in Ireland, saying it was "greatly appreciated by the national management".

He added: "We have protocols in place to safeguard the welfare of the players and staff and are looking forward to completing the Six Nations Championships."

Ireland squad:

Backs: Bundee Aki (Connacht), Ross Byrne (Leinster), Jack Carty (Connacht), Andrew Conway (Munster), Shane Daly (Munster), Chris Farrell (Munster), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Hugo Keenan (Leinster), Jordan Larmour (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Conor Murray (Munster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Johnny Sexton (Leinster, captain), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)

Forwards: Ryan Baird (Leinster), Finlay Bealham (Connacht), Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Ed Byrne (Leinster), Will Connors (Leinster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Caelan Doris (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Dave Heffernan (Connacht), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Ronan Kelleher (Leinster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Andrew Porter (Leinster), Quinn Roux (Connacht), James Ryan (Leinster), John Ryan (Munster), CJ Stander (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster)

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