‘Being over here as a family is special’ – Farrell excited to succeed Schmidt

WHILE JOE SCHMIDT was at the centre of everything in the Aviva Stadium again yesterday, with his Ireland team training against the Ireland U20s, Andy Farrell was involved on a more in-and-out basis.

Farrell will succeed Schmidt as head coach. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

As an assistant coach focusing on the area of defence, his remit is obviously more limited than Schmidt’s.

Assistants are generally a little more relaxed, sometimes more like peers to the players than superiors.

But life will be changing for Farrell very soon, with the Englishman taking over from Schmidt as Ireland head coach after this year’s World Cup.

An assistant to Schmidt since 2016, Farrell knows that the scrutiny and pressure coming his way will be very different to what he experiences now.

“And I’m not afraid of that, I’m excited by that,” said Farrell after the remarkably high-tempo session yesterday. “Everyone’s aware of what you’re getting into. We’re not going into it blind. So yeah, I look forward to that.”

It’s been moving this way for Farrell for some time. When he first joined Ireland in 2016 – having been removed as an England assistant in the wake of the 2015 World Cup – it was pointed out that he could make a good eventual successor to Schmidt.

Having fended off a range of offers to become the boss elsewhere in the years since, the time felt right for Farrell when Schmidt confirmed he would depart the Ireland job post-World Cup.

“Do you know what, I have always been very cautious in the fact that I have got a good job and you’ve got to be sure that you are ready for these things,” said Farrell.

“I was coming to a stage where jobs were being offered in the head coach role and I had said no to quite a few. I didn’t want to get to a stage where I was going to look back in the future and have regrets. I would have 100% regretted not taking this one.”

Farrell has learned plenty from Schmidt. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRFU performance director David Nucifora managed the process in the background, as all parties waited for Schmidt’s final decision.

Though Farrell insisted he would have been “more than happy to keep going and keep learning off Joe,” it was a straightforward situation when Schmidt indicated he would step away.

Life post-Joe will be intriguing, with Farrell stepping into the deep end with expectations around Irish rugby being so high, particularly if Schmidt’s team can end his tenure with a good World Cup.

Farrell is a proud son of Wigan and a rugby league legend, but, as the surname suggests, he has Irish ancestry. Farrell’s brother, Phil, once played rugby league for Ireland.

Dublin has become home for Farrell and his family since the move from England, meaning there was more than rugby involved in his decision to take on the Ireland head coach role.

“We love it here for so many reasons,” said the 43-year-old, who lives in Sandymount. “I could talk all day about the environment. But just being over here as a family is special as well.

“The people are so welcoming and warm. It does lead me to the thought process of ‘why did my ancestors leave?’”

Farrell pointed to “time management” as something that will be a big challenge for him upon taking up the head coach role, the demands being to manage up and manage down, as well as the responsibilities “on the outside of rugby.”

He has always come across as entirely comfortable in dealing with the media and was so again yesterday, his first outing since he was confirmed as Schmidt’s successor.

The 43-year-old is excited about the future. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Farrell will have his current fellow assistant coaches Simon Easterby and Richie Murphy working under him next year but will need to find a scrum specialist to replace the highly-regarded Greg Feek.

Who fills the void as attack coach in Schmidt’s absence is another major question. Farrell said there is planning going on behind the scenes in that regard and he’s hopeful he will be able to avoid the danger of trying to control every single detail.

“We will see,” said Farrell with a laugh when asked if he is good at delegating. “I believe I am. I think you need a bit of humility as well, let people have their legs, etc., and I have got good people who can manage with that type of thing as well.”

There is much to look forward to, but Farrell underlined that he’s not taking his eye off the ball in his current role.

Helping Schmidt to bow out in style at the World Cup is important but in the shorter-term, Farrell wants to see Ireland finish out this year’s Six Nations strongly after last weekend’s win in Scotland.

“It was a big week, the Scottish week,” said Farrell of how Ireland bounced back from their opening round defeat at home to England. “There was disappointment in many different areas.

“It was a big game, we wanted to get back on the horse and get a W on the board. But a good performance individually and collectively came after. On top of that, there are not many teams who come to Murrayfield these days and get a win.

“We have been picking the performance apart in the last couple of days but if you get back to before kick off, you are thinking, ‘What is going to be a good outcome? A win would be a good outcome.’

“In my opinion, in terms of how the game went, I thought everyone has been talking about Scotland making too many errors in the second half, etc., I thought we got them to a point, probably on 50/55 minutes where they had to start chasing the game a little, where we subconsciously grabbed hold of the game, forced them to play a little differently.

“When you put that into context, I thought it was a super win.”

Spoken like a head coach.

Originally published at 0700

Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey break down Ireland’s dogged win against Scotland in Murrayfield, and look at the room for improvement, in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

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