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Andy Farrell believes in-form Rugby World Cup hopefuls Ireland rugby were previously plagued by an “inferiority complex”.
Test rugby’s top-ranked nation will bid to make history against New Zealand rugby in Paris on Saturday evening by becoming the first Irish team to progress to the semi-finals of the competition.
Head coach Farrell was assistant to Joe Schmidt when Ireland went into the 2019 tournament as the sport’s number one country only to suffer a humiliating last-eight stuffing at the hands of the formidable All Blacks.
The Englishman, who has masterminded 17 successive wins, feels Ireland are becoming better at handling the pressure of having a target on their back and must continue to do so in order to emulate the sustained success of the Kiwis.
“I suppose an inferiority complex is what’s happened in the past as far as getting to world number one and thinking that we’re going to fall off a cliff because this shouldn’t be happening to Ireland,” said Farrell.
“But what we’ve learnt to do is throw ourselves into big challenges and try to meet them head on and embrace that.
“We don’t want to be second best, we want to be first best. But we also realise what comes with that, that people are always chasing you hard down.
“You’ve seen with the All Blacks over the last 20 years – that’s why they’re so respected because it’s very hard to stay at the top.
“The guys that are the favourites are the ones I’ve always looked at throughout my career and envied really because of how hard it is to do that.
“That’s the place we want to be because if you’re serious about getting better and being the team that you want to be, that’s the world that you’ve got to live in.”
While New Zealand are three-time world champions, Ireland have repeatedly fallen at the quarter-final hurdle.
The Six Nations champions were full of optimism going into the same stage four years ago before crashing out 46-14 to the All Blacks in Tokyo.
Farrell has committed time and effort to improving the mental resilience of his players and says they must remember Ireland are a “bloody good team” if they suffer performance anxiety this weekend at Stade de France.
We don’t want to be second best, we want to be first best. But we also realise what comes with that, that people are always chasing you hard down
“It’s another big game in front of us,” said the 48-year-old, who led his side to a historic tour success in New Zealand last summer.
“At this stage, it’s all about preparation and recovery and making sure there’s an ownership of the plan that you’re going to try and apply on the opposition at the weekend.
“We immerse ourselves with that and that’s the only way it should be. Of course things start to creep in, but we’ve tools and experience to combat all that.
“The main part is to remember that we’re a bloody good team that play together and, when we do that, you’re not on your own, so you can get away from those type of thoughts.”
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