Far­rell in line to suc­ceed Sch­midt

IRFU keen on seam­less tran­si­tion with Lan­caster to join coach­ing ticket

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Gerry Thorn­ley Rugby Cor­re­spon­dent

Andy Far­rell is in line to be­come Ire­land head coach after next year’s World Cup if, or as is now al­most cer­tainly the case, when the IRFU con­firm Joe Sch­midt’s in­ten­tion not to ex­tend his ten­ure after Ja­pan 2019.

The IRFU will re­lease a state­ment to­day re­gard­ing Sch­midt’s fu­ture, although whether or not Far­rell’s pro­mo­tion will also be an­nounced re­mains to be seen. The Ir­ish de­fence coach, like for­wards coach Si­mon Easterby and kick­ing/skills coach Richie Mur­phy, is un­der con­tract un­til 2020 and hav­ing come aboard fol­low­ing the 2016 Six Na­tions, Far­rell’s pro­mo­tion would be rel­a­tively seam­less tran­si­tion.

The like­li­hood is that Stu­art Lan­caster would be asked to come aboard the Ir­ish coach­ing ticket to fill the at­tack­ing void left by Sch­midt’s post-World Cup de­par­ture in what would be some­thing of a role re­ver­sal with Far­rell from their time to­gether coach­ing Eng­land. Not alone has Lan­caster worked with Far­rell, but he’s also been hugely in­stru­men­tal in trans­form­ing Le­in­ster into last sea­son’s dou­ble cham­pi­ons.

Best suited

Far­rell has long since been iden­ti­fied by the IRFU as the man best suited to suc­ceed­ing Sch­midt, a sce­nario that now seems all but in­evitable. Sch­midt de­clared his in­ten­tion to re­turn to New Zealand, more for fam­ily rea­sons than rugby ones, at some point since last Fe­bru­ary and, hav­ing com­mit­ted to de­cid­ing on his fu­ture fol­low­ing this month’s four Tests, had main­tained a straight bat un­til re­cent days.

The ed­i­fice cracked fur­ther after Sat­ur­day’s 54-17 win over the USA when Sch­midt ef­fec­tively let slip he’d no­ti­fied the IRFU, ie High Per­for­mance direc­tor David Nu­ci­fora and chief ex­ec­u­tive Philip Browne, of his in­ten­tions and their ef­forts to dis­suade him.

“I’ve given them an in­di­ca­tion and I just need to talk to peo­ple to­mor­row and early next week, [then] it will be made pub­lic,” said Sch­midt.

‘Con­ver­sa­tion’

“They’ve said, ‘don’t be rash, if you change your mind, we’d love to con­tinue that con­ver­sa­tion, or if you change your mind we don’t need to have a con­ver­sa­tion, or if we just con­tinue as we are, that’s great’. They’ve set out five dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios just in case we can sort some­thing out with­out too much drama.”

The Union wouldn’t be say­ing ‘don’t be rash’ if Sch­midt had in­di­cated he was stay­ing on. This is Sch­midt’s 12th sea­son coach­ing in Eu­rope, and all the in­di­ca­tions are that he and his wife Kel­lie are head­ing back to New Zealand, al­beit he would be leav­ing Ire­land with a heavy heart.

In an en­su­ing brief­ing with the daily pa­pers, Sch­midt again spoke of the pos­i­tives of his job, such as “the Car­ton House fam­ily” of play­ers and staff, and the pub­lic sup­port.

“I guess I’m my own worst en­emy when it comes to work­ing. I tend to be a lit­tle bit of a worka­holic,” he said, apolo­get­i­cally.

“And that means that I’m out of the house a fair bit or even at home I’m plug­ging away, look­ing at things with a mi­cro­scope. So that’s prob­a­bly a char­ac­ter flaw. If you prob­a­bly talk to some of the peo­ple on the staff, it’s one of many I have. Hope­fully they don’t dis­close all the other ones,” he joked.

“I first talked to the fam­ily in the sum­mer and I’ll be go­ing back­wards and for­wards with the IRFU to­mor­row [Sun­day]. I gave my­self the dead­line of to­mor­row, or Mon­day morn­ing to say this is it defini­tively. So defini­tively, yea, it will be then.

“It’s prob­a­bly frus­trat­ing for you guys and I apol­o­gise. It’s wreck­ing my head so I can’t wait un­til I can say ‘right, this is it’. Ei­ther way, the next 11 months is mas­sive, whether it con­tin­ues be­yond that or whether that’s the end point.

‘De­fend­ing champs’

“It’s mas­sive. We’ve got the two big­gest tour­na­ments we play. We’ve got the Six Na­tions, that we’re the de­fend­ing champs, and the World Cup, where we’re cer­tainly not the de­fend­ing champs be­cause we didn’t get past the quar­ter-fi­nals and we’d love to do that.”

Save for one 24-hour get-to­gether be­fore the fes­tive der­bies over the next ten weeks, Sch­midt said he would be track­ing Conor Mur­ray and Chris Far­rell, who made their sea­sonal re-ap­pear­ances for Mun­ster in yes­ter­day’s win away to Ze­bre, and Sean O’Brien, as well as the 43 play­ers used in this Novem­ber win­dow.

An­other au­tum­nal clean sweep had com­pleted some­thing of an an­nus mirabilis in 2018, fea­tur­ing 11 wins out of 12 and also yield­ing a Grand Slam and se­ries win in Aus­tralia.

“It would be pretty hard to top 2018, re­ally,” he ad­mit­ted. “There’s been some mon­u­men­tal wins; that win in Paris if you go back to where the cal­en­dar year started, and you don’t get too much more spe­cial end-games than that. I think it got peo­ple enor­mously ex­cited in­clud­ing our squad.

“Then once you know you’ve done that, you don’t want to waste that. You want to make sure that you cap­i­talise on the back of that and I was de­lighted with the way that the team did.”

The Grand Slam was “spe­cial” and ditto the se­ries win in Aus­tralia for hav­ing come from one down in “a cou­ple of cliffhang­ers in full sta­dia”.

Fin­ish­ing off the year with three more sell-outs and “three in­cred­i­bly en­cour­ag­ing crowds”, Sch­midt said of last week’s his­toric win over the All Blacks, “but we were blown away by last week”.

“That’s as spe­cial as I’ve heard it in my five-and-a-half year stint with the team.”

A re­mark­able stint it’s been too, al­beit one that now seems set to end in just un­der a year’s time.

Andy Far­rell: to be­come Ire­land head coach after next year’s World Cup in Ja­pan

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