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Andy Farrell thanks Joe Schmidt for 'blessing' to tour New Zealand with Lions

Published 11/11/2016

Andy Farrell, right, has thanked Joe Schmidt, second from right, for his blessings over Farrell being part of next year's Lions tour
Andy Farrell, right, has thanked Joe Schmidt, second from right, for his blessings over Farrell being part of next year's Lions tour

Andy Farrell has thanked Joe Schmidt for receiving his Ireland boss' "blessing" to tour New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions next summer.

Ireland defence coach Farrell quickly branded that endorsement "irrelevant" this week however, ahead of Saturday's Test match with Canada in Dublin.

Farrell remains the front-runner to lead the Lions' defence in next summer's three-Test clash in New Zealand, with Warren Gatland seeking continuity from the series triumph in Australia.

Schmidt ruled himself out of the Lions equation this week, but at the same time backed Farrell's candidacy to reprise his defence role of 2013.

"Obviously it's nice to get his blessing, because if I didn't have it I wouldn't be being put forward for anything," said Farrell of receiving Schmidt's Lions backing.

"But look, it is irrelevant at this moment in time.

"We've had a tough week preparing a side within a couple of sessions last week, but it's even tougher this week.

"We only got back into training on Tuesday after returning from Chicago.

"The challenge is more difficult to make sure we're cohesive this weekend, against a good Canada side.

"That has to be the focus, everything else is irrelevant at this time."

Ireland will field an entirely-changed line-up against Canada from the starting XV that made history with a first-ever win over New Zealand in Chicago last weekend.

Farrell's defensive imprint was stamped all over that 40-29 Soldier Field victory, with Ireland clearly responding well to his coaching behind the scenes.

The former dual-code international's coaching career took a hit after England's miserable World Cup failure, but the 41-year-old has already hit back in style with Ireland.

Ireland's players have hailed Farrell's influence since his January appointment - but the man himself has been keen to eschew that praise.

"You're only as good as what the players think of you," said Farrell.

"You might have been talking to them more than me; they don't give me the pleasantries constantly.

"Look, it's well-documented what the environment's like. They understand how we take the field at the weekend, because we work incredibly hard during the week to get our detail right.

"And when you're in an environment like that everyone pulls together, everyone's on the same page, and that's how it should be.

"So as I said, we've a hell of a lot to do, over these next three games, and then again moving forward."

Combative Munster flanker Peter O'Mahony will captain Ireland in Dublin for the first time on Saturday, intent on guiding the host of uncapped stars through their first international experience.

Ireland could hand out eight Test debuts in all this weekend, with Garry Ringrose, Billy Holland and Jack O'Donoghue all making their international bows from the off at the Aviva Stadium.

Fit-again duo O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien will be striving to prove themselves worthy of selection for the Dublin rematch with New Zealand on Saturday week. But the captain to face Canada insisted any personal thoughts must be shunted to one side.

"People have got to realise there's a lot of pressure on young guys coming in, the first cappers," said O'Mahony.

"The senior guys among us have to drive the standards and help those talented new players through the whole day.

"You never take it for granted any time you get selected to play for Ireland.

"I'm a very proud Irish man and I'd certainly never take anything for granted, but to be captain is extremely special.

"I've been picked as captain for this weekend and that means I've got to go and lead through my performance.

"We've got to go out and put down a performance tomorrow that will make the others around us feel good and play well."

Much-vaunted Leinster centre Ringrose will win his long-awaited first cap this weekend, with O'Mahony offering a ringing endorsement of the 21-year-old's qualities.

"He's a fabulous athlete," said O'Mahony.

"He doesn't look like a huge man, but God he can hit hard. He carries hard, he's good around the breakdown and he's strong.

"I'm really looking forward to playing alongside him tomorrow to be honest."

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