Opinion: Andy Farrell must find his own identity

Andy Farrell has at a crossroads in his early Ireland tenure

Georgia, oh Georgia

No, no, no, no, no peace I find

Just an old sweet song

Keeps Georgia on my mind

Hoagy Carmichael – Georgia on my mind


You are probably thinking what is Hawkeye Sidekick on about with those lyrics to start off this post but there is a method in the madness. The song is about the beauty of Georgia (US state) which the creators of this classic were from.

The song has parallels for Andy Farrell this week as Ireland face Georgia (Eastern Europe and not USA state) but it is an opportunity for Farrell to embrace his inner coaching ethos, his inner love for the game, his vision of how the side should play and look to create an identity associated with Andy Farrell.

What is the Andy Farrell coaching ethos / vision?

This week should be about Andy Farrell leading from his heart, his passion for how the game should be played and I feel since he started the head coaching role, it has been very much keeping it consistent per the Schmidt era.

After a miserable performance against England last weekend, a performance where the tactic of bashing England with first phase ball carries did not deviate from the last two test match fixtures against England (during Schmidt era), there was no hint of ingenuity or creativity until Billy Burns came on the park to execute some grubber kicks and kicks in behind England’s first line of defense to ask some long overdue questions.

Ireland side looks exciting

Team Lineup: 


  • Jacob Stockdale (Ulster Rugby)
  • Hugo Keenan (Leinster Rugby)
  • Chris Farrell (Munster Rugby)
  • Stuart McCloskey (Ulster Rugby)
  • Keith Earls (Munster Rugby)

Half Backs

  • Billy Burns (Ulster Rugby)
  • Conor Murray (Munster Rugby)


  • Finlay Bealham (Connacht Rugby)
  • Rob Herring (Ulster Rugby)
  • Andrew Porter (Leinster Rugby)
  • Iain Henderson (Ulster Rugby)
  • James Ryan (capt) (Leinster Rugby)
  • Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby)
  • Will Connors (Leinster Rugby)
  • CJ Stander (Munster Rugby)


  • Dave Heffernan (Connacht Rugby)
  • Cian Healy (Leinster Rugby)
  • John Ryan (Munster Rugby)
  • Quinn Roux (Connacht Rugby)
  • Peter O’Mahony (Munster Rugby)
  • Kieran Marmion (Connacht Rugby)
  • Ross Byrne (Leinster Rugby)
  • Shane Daly (Munster Rugby)

Farrell looking to create with extended width

Andy Farrell is looking to create width with this selection. I am delighted to see Stockdale, McCloskey in the back line unit. Stockdale’s try last weekend was superbly taken and executed. He gets another chance to impress at full back. McCloskey has had to bide his time to get a test match cap, his powerful ball carries and defense should be an added bonus.

Murray back to steady the half-back unit

The half-back partnership looks interesting. Gibson-Park had paid the price for the Twickenham performance and Murray is selected to provide stability at the nine jersey. The image of Gibson-Park getting done for pace by May and then the half committed tackle when May was past him was not a look good.

Burns should hopefully get fast ruck ball and if that happens, his playmaking should be seen to full effect. Burns has a lovely touch, his attacking kick game really good and his passing range to get his three quarters into the match will be keenly observed.

Better back row balance

The back row balance this weekend so looks so much than last weekend. Doris was blown out of it by Vunipola, Underhill and Curry so for Stander to be back at eight is a smart move against an abrasive Georgian pack. Connors and Beirne have the mobility and work rate to disrupt Georgia ball. Good selection.

Hooker position wide open

Ronan Kelleher drops out of the matchday squad. The lineout last weekend was not just the hooker’s fault, the line out calling at times was very poor but the selection of Herring at hooker and Heffernan in reserve means that Kelleher has a battle to get back into the test matchday squad soon.

The line out is an area that should improve. Georgia vs. England line out threat is world’s apart but I would like to see Herring and Ryan / Henderson really get on top of their lineout calls; decisive throws and quick line out execution. The set piece calling leadership is still a point of discussion here.

Daly is a massive talent

I am delighted to see Shane Daly on the bench. He has delivered standout performances for Munster Rugby and he should get game time this weekend.

An exciting player; strong in the aerial exchanges and his pace and nous to identify defensive line weak points is really standout. I feel for Andrew Conway as he has done nothing wrong to be excluded, perhaps management know his capability and looking at other options.

Bealham needs to deliver

Finlay Bealham gets his opportunity to impress. His scrummaging will be tested by the Georgian front row. This is the acid test for Bealham. We know that he is a superb player in open play, great work rate but the set piece execution at test match level needs to be examined and scrutinized.

I am excited to see how Bealham does. We need a strong performance from the player as Cian Healy is entering the final phase of his career and we have no discernible backup identified.

Georgia looking for attacking cohesion

We are at game three of the inaugural Autumn International series, a format I am still trying to figure out if I like or despise it. This week’s opposition is Georgia who have conceded fifty-eight points and not scored zero in their last two games. The increased quality in opponent for Georgia has been a steep learning curve but it is required for the Georgians to improve and compete at this level.

Georgia’s Autumn International Series results

England put forty points on Georgia in matchday one. The lack of Georgian attacking threat seen with Georgia only attacking in the England half for less than minute!

The Welsh performance was improved last weekend. Wales won 18-0. Some will criticize the Welsh attacking performance but Georgia’s defensive line speed was much better in matchday two. The attacking threat was still poor and they will look to improve this weekend in Dublin.

Massive Pack

Georgia’s pack will demand respect. They are a massive pack and their scrummaging is world renowned. England and Eddie Jones love to get Georgia into their training sessions and run some set piece drills. Their scrummaging has been a mixed bag in this tournament but I expect them to be on song this weekend.

Familiar Backroom Georgian Personnel

You should also be familiar with some of the backroom management personnel with Georgia. David Humphries is the high performance consultant and Neil Doak is the backs coach so plenty of Irish background for Georgia’s side to utilize.

Georgia Team that played Wales on Nov 21st


  • 1 Mikheil Nariashvili (Montpellier)
  • 2 Jaba Bregvadze (Unattached)
  • 3 Beka Gigashvili (Toulon)
  • 4 Grigor Kerdikoshvili (Lelo Saracens)
  • 5 Kote Mikautadze (Bayonne)
  • 6 Otar Giorgadze (Brive)
  • 7 Beka Saginadze (Lelo Saracens)
  • 8 Beka Gorgadze (Bordeaux)


  • 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze (Brive)
  • 10 Tedo Abzhandadze (Brive)
  • 11 Sandro Todua (Batumi RC)
  • 12 Merab Sharikadze (Captain) (Unattached)
  • 13 Giorgi Kveseladze (Armazi)
  • 14 Akaki Tabutsadze (Lelo Saracens)
  • 15 Lasha Khmaladze (Batumi RC)


  • 16 Giorgi Chkoidze (Locomotiv Penza – Russia)
  • 17 Guram Gogichashvili (Racing 92)
  • 18 Lexo Kaulashvili(Bordeaux)
  • 19 Lasha Jaiani (Armazi)
  • 20 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili (Batumi RC)
  • 21 Gela Aprasidze (Montpellier)
  • 22 Demur Tapladze (Lelo Saracens)
  • 23 Tamaz Mchedlidze (Rouen – France)


If Ireland are accurate at ruck time, the side should create sufficient quick ball for Murray / Burns to unleash the Ireland back line. Earls and Keenan will be looking forward to this test match, the chance to score some tries and I think this will happen given the opposition and the inexperience in the Georgian back field. Ireland should look to score forty plus points here. Hopefully, Georgia break their scoring duck but it will be a consolation score.

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