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Andy Farrell hopes Ireland can fire up the crowd in Dublin on their return trip to Italy IG News

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Andy Farrell hopes Ireland can draw a sell-out crowd in Dublin and avoid a zombie atmosphere during the return leg against Italy.

The reigning Six Nations champions are set to play at the Aviva Stadium for the first time since an agonizing World Cup quarter-final in October when they were knocked out by New Zealand.

Tens of thousands of traveling fans celebrated each of Ireland’s pool wins in France with rousing renditions of the team’s tournament anthem – Zombie by the Cranberries.

Thousands of traveling fans supported Ireland at last year's Rugby World Cup in France
Thousands of traveling fans supported Ireland at last year’s Rugby World Cup in France (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Head coach Farrell is looking to continue the special connection with the fans on Sunday afternoon when his side take on opponents who were narrowly beaten by England on the opening weekend of the Championship.

“Well, I hope they’re not impatient when they’re just quiet and waiting to go,” he said of the fans.

“Hopefully we can get them excited about our goals and the way we can play the game.

“Anyone who watched the Italy game last week knows they will be a threat and I think our fans will definitely get behind our side.

“First time [at home] since the World Cup warm-up games and that’s what the players have been talking about and what they’re excited about.”

Ireland began their title defense with a statement of success with a 38-17 victory over pre-tournament favorites France in Marseille.

Italy, beaten 27-24 by Steve Borthwick’s side in Rome the following day, had lost each of their previous 12 Six Nations matches on Irish soil.

Farrell made six personnel changes to his starting XI and named Caelan Doris as captain for the first time, but dismissed any notion of overconfidence.

Italy were narrowly beaten by England last weekend
Italy were narrowly beaten by England last weekend (Adam Davy/PA)

“You know me, I’m no disrespect to anybody,” said the Englishman.

“I’m not who I am, but honestly, it’s about us.

“It’s about our progress from last week and the expectation that within our four walls we have an understanding of how we operate in all parts of our game.

“It’s genuine, it’s there, it’s obvious we see the levels we need to reach, not just on the pitch but off it.

Ireland win five tries in Marseille on the opening weekend of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations
Ireland won five tries in Marseille on the opening weekend of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“The players are very honest and it would be wrong to lose a week and not progress.”

Back-rower Doris leads his country from openside flanker, only captaining Leinster for the first time in the United Rugby Championship’s 22-21 defeat by Ulster on New Year’s Day.

The 25-year-old revealed he “pissed off” referee Frank Murphy that day when he questioned the decisions that turned out to be correct about the experience he and Farrell discussed.

“Obviously we’re talking about it,” Farrell said.

“Caelan is a humble type of guy and would always be his biggest critic, you’d expect that from someone who wants to learn and get better.

“I know I made a lot of calls and I probably wasn’t as humble as I was in my first stint as captain when I played.

“I have no doubt that he would learn a lot from it. He is a thinker.”

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