In between delivering his post-match thoughts to his dressing-room and making his way to the press conference room in the Aviva Stadium, Andy Farrell always takes a moment to check the scores from the Premier League.
anchester City are his team and there’s a like-minded soul in the press corps. Before we talk rugby, there’s always a quick reaction to City’s day and on Saturday Ivan Toney’s late winner for Brentford did little to cheer up the Ireland coach.
If he is looking for positives, he could draw them from the fact that even the most expensively assembled team in football history, coached by an all-time great and featuring a force-of-nature centre-forward, can have an off-day.
Farrell’s side certainly had that in common with City on Saturday and the coach didn’t spare the rod as he issued a withering critique of the level of performance delivered against Fiji.
A life in professional rugby informs the rugby league great’s expectation and he wasn’t entertaining excuses like lunchtime kick-offs.
His message is simple: Once you put on a green jersey, you go out there and perform.
“It shows your mentality, where you’re at,” he said when asked if he’d be happy to see the back of lunchtime games. “It shows your character as a group. We’ve learnt a little bit in that regard.”
The lessons will be grim reading for most of those involved, with the team once again struggling to keep their standards high without the forceful presence of Johnny Sexton in the middle of it all.
Farrell wouldn’t draw a connection between the absence of the captain and the drop-off, highlighting a number of other big figures who were also absent from the dressing-room.
“It’s not just Johnny,” he said.
“Look at it all, the experience that is out of the side. Not just the injured lads, it’s Bundee (Aki), Iain Henderson, Keith Earls not being here.
“Whoever it is, certain people understand their role and their fit in the side. They’re able to be themselves and go after that; they are comfortable in their own skins . . .
“When you’re missing so much, then people know they need to try fill that vacuum but they need the experience of being able to do that at the same time.
“At least we know where we’re at.”
It served to highlight the gap between impressing in the URC and performing at Test level, even against an ill-disciplined Fiji who repeatedly invited Ireland into their ’22.
Fitness issues aside, the team for next week’s game against Australia largely picks itself. Not many figures pushed the envelope and there’s a real fear that Ireland are a couple of injuries away from being a very ordinary team.
Certainly, the ‘A’ side’s performance against the All Blacks XV and Saturday’s display have dampened down any talk of Ireland’s depth.
“I’m not worried, it is what it is,” Farrell said of his second-string. “You know what you know.
“There’s a lot of big characters who were not in the changing-room. I’m big on how you make people feel or how certain people make people feel and we’d different leadership going on this week in all sorts of areas, it’s something we need to get to the bottom of and keep progressing with.
“Sometimes you get a performance and it leads you into a false dawn. It’s good, especially off the back of a win to get into the bones of it, dig down deep and see what the reality is.”
Certainly, the rested players slept easily on Saturday night.
Out-half and loosehead are the two areas that are most open in the Irish set-up right now and, while they both had fine games, neither Joey Carbery nor Jeremy Loughman did anything to suggest they’ll skip the queue.
Indeed, rather than worrying Sexton, Carbery is now casting a glance over his own shoulder where Jack Crowley is looming large. Carbery enters the return-to-play programme, but after coming off with a head injury it seems likely the Munster youngster will be on the bench next week.
Indeed, if Sexton doesn’t recover he could be put squarely in the firing line of the Wallabies.
The talented debutant looked the part, earning praise from Ronan O’Gara and Ian Madigan on social media. The revolving door of third-choice No 10s might be about to close.
Max Deegan is another whose star is on the rise and after impacting the game from the bench there’s a real possibility that he’ll usurp Jack Conan on the list of replacements this weekend. Nick Timoney is another live contender for that role.
Stuart McCloskey is likely to be back on the bench as Bundee Aki returns. The Bangor native just didn’t generate enough go-forward ball on Saturday to be confident of keeping the shirt this week.
Much depends on the health of Sexton, Josh van der Flier, James Ryan and Robbie Henshaw. Like Carbery, Jimmy O’Brien looks highly unlikely to be involved.
Farrell wasn’t about to read the players the riot act, saying: “They know, they 100 per cent know.”
Next week, Ireland have a chance to round out the window on a high by recording a record 12th home victory in a row.
A big win would consign the Fiji performance to history and Australia’s defeat to Italy suggests they’re very beatable.
“We know what’s coming,” he said. “It will be rowdy enough . . . we’ve got to play our part in that.”
With the big guns back, Farrell will be confident they’ll find their mojo once more.