ASK ANY OF Ireland’s players about Andy Farrell, their new defence coach, and one of the first things they’ll comment on is the Englishman’s physical appearance.
Yesterday, the 41-year-old made his first media appearance since his IRFU contract began in April and he certainly looked to be in fine fettle.
Farrell at Connacht training with Greg Feek and Tom McCartney in April. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Farrell stands 6′ 4″ tall and quite clearly still shifts a considerable amount of tin, meaning he has an imposing physical stature to go along with his reputation as a commanding and decisive coach.
The first impression of Farrell at the Aviva Stadium yesterday was a strong one. Forthright, concise and no-nonsense, it seems extremely likely that Farrell is going to be a popular interviewee over the coming seasons.
He has been working with small groups of Ireland players intermittently in recent times after being introduced to the entire squad for the first time in the overnight camp at Johnstown House in April.
With Ireland’s preparations for the three-Test tour of South Africa now underway, Farrell is clear-minded about what his contribution will be.
“My department is defence, so that’s where I’ll be looking at,” said Farrell. “We have a fantastic coaching team here that looks at the whole bigger picture, but my department is defence and it’s going to be tested in South Africa, so I’ve got my hands full.
“The challenge is one that really excites me because I feel that defence is about attitude, and we want to create history so we have to show some real proper attitude.
“We’ve got a couple of days in camp to get our systems sorted out, etc., and then we’ll talk about the mentality to go into the cauldron and win a game in South Africa. That’s my role and it’s up to me to put a stamp on that.”
Farrell said he feels fortunate to be following the highly-regarded Les Kiss into the defence coach position with Ireland, given that the Australian had put strong foundations in place.
Farrell was part of England’s disappointing World Cup campaign. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
His desire to “put my own stamp” on the Ireland set-up was clear, however, and it will be fascinating to see how Ireland’s players react to Farrell’s demands for increased linespeed and aggression in defence.
One of the reasons Farrell accepted Ireland’s offer, which makes him an IRFU employee until after the 2019 World Cup, is his desire to improve as a coach.
The former rugby league legend referred to experiences both “good and bad in the past” in underlining his intention to continue growing his knowledge, and stated that he believes he can learn from Schmidt.
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Farrell helped England to a 2014 win over Schmidt’s Ireland in his previous role as England assistant coach but was always impressed by what the Kiwi head coach and his staff delivered.