‘You get one opportunity in your career to create history that’s so special’

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.

Furthermore, having worked with the likes of Johnny Sexton, Sean O’Brien and Conor Murray on the 2013 Lions tour, Farrell believes Irish players share his thirst to improve.

“Ireland have always got a good plan and they’re very hard to beat,” said Farrell, “very hard to beat.

“There are two reasons I’m so excited about being part of this coaching staff. One, to be involved in this coaching group because I’ve coached against Joe before. You know when you come up against Ireland that you’re going to have a task on your hands because they’re going to have a plan. It’s always a different plan.

“To be involved with Joe and his coaching background isn’t just about results, it’s about that know-how and the class they’ve got. The record speaks for itself and I just want to keep getting better personally.

Farrell spent time with Munster on a consultancy basis. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“On top of the coaching side, when I got a chance to work with some of these guys in the past I was impressed by their work ethic on and off the field.

“They were setting the tone on the Lions tour. They’re a very inquisitive bunch who ask all the right questions, not in bad way, and wanted to be better.

“To be involved in a coaching group where I’m going to get better and hopefully I will improve the team, that is where I want to be.”

There is a long-term aspect to Farrell’s goals, of course, but more immediately he simply wants to win in South Africa.

Not just one Test, but the series outright.

“You probably get one chance in your career to go on tour to South Africa,” said Farrell. “It is different and the southern hemisphere boys go there all the time. It is like a religion over there.

“The atmosphere is special. What has to happen to create that history that we talk about is that we have got to have belief.

“You get one chance. On a tour like this, you get one opportunity within your career to create history that’s so special.

“You have to go out there and believe. That’s why I keep talking about mentality.”

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