The bench ratio has been the talk of the pre-game leading into the two sides’ titanic clash in Paris this weekend, with the focus of the media dwelling very much on Jacques Nienaber’s penchant for a bench heavily favouring forwards.
Farrell was of course quizzed on the curious South African tactic in the Ireland team announcement and didn’t attempt to side-step it.
“I think it’s great,” said Farrell. “It obviously suits them and they obviously know their squad and what fits for them and so do we. I did pose the question to our forwards coaches as to whether we should go with seven backs and one forward, but they weren’t up for that! I think it shows they know exactly where they want to go with their game plan and we do the same with the subs we pick as well.”
More pointedly he asked whether it had given him pause for thought, to which Farrell’s response was short and sharp.
“No, not at all, never once.”
What’s more, the 48-year-old doesn’t think the 7-1 split is putting more pressure on his players.
“I don’t see it like that at all [putting pressure on the Ireland players]. I am pretty confident in the five forwards we have got coming off bench and the impact they’re going to have and the type of game we’re going to play when that happens.
“It doesn’t have any bearing as far as that’s concerned. We’ve been able to analyse them with the seven-one split, and not that much changes. Obviously they are fresh and they got dominance set-piece-wise in that game [a warm-up test against New Zealand] but we would back our players to do the same.
“I don’t know, it doesn’t really bother me. It is just about us. We have to be good, we have to play really well to beat the world champions because they are in good form. Barring us and our team and management and the Irish people all over the world, I think everyone thinks they’re the favourites and they’re going to win this game. I can see why because of the form they’ve shown in the last couple of games. But we don’t think like that. We are ready for a tough battle and it will take its own course.”
“There are all sort of different permutations. Even with a five-three split, you can’t cover everything. But you need to be adaptable, which is something we have worked hard at with our planning over the last few years. I suppose they have done exactly the same with the seven-one split. I love it, I respect it. I like the fact they know their squad and brought four scrum-halves over, a hooker who has not really played in that specialist position before. It shows they know their players and which direction they want to go. Hopefully they think the same about us as well.”