New criticism of England rugby for letting Farrell leave
The England rugby football union has come under renewed flak, from Steve Hansen and now Lawrence Dallaglio, for letting Andy Farrell leave the fold. “I know they tried to get him back,” said Hansen, after Ireland beat his All Blacks in Dublin. “Obviously they recognise something we all recognise.
“What’s he good at?” Hansen asked himself. “He is good at organising his team and filling up the space on the park. And he does that really well.”
This means defence. “I couldn’t watch the Irish defensive effort [against New Zealand] without lamenting the loss England suffered when Andy Farrell was allowed to slip through the net,” wrote Dallaglio in the Sunday Times. “This is not hindsight talking. The moment Eddie Jones said no to Farrell, I thought it was a mistake.”
Wigan’s Rugby League Goliath throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Farrell made his coaching bones under Brendan Venter, then Mark McCall’s directorship at Saracens, before joining England for three years as Stuart Lancaster’s lieutenant.
Two successful Lions tours under Warren Gatland into Joe Schmidt’s Ireland for almost three years has him “organising and filling up the space” to put the 43-year-old among the game’s elite specialist coaches. Not yet a head coach in its truest sense, Farrell has no direct experience, like, say, Lancaster would have from running Leeds Carnegie, the RFU academy and the national job that led to both men’s dismissal following England’s collapse at their home World Cup in 2015.
It wasn’t the mighty All Blacks that proved the undoing of these coaches but Wales then Australia who ransacked Twickenham on their watch. Despite Lancaster’s Leinster contract ending next summer, Farrell has been framed as Schmidt’s successor come 2020. Perhaps the IRFU want to appoint a head coach instead of replicating the dictatorial role Schmidt fills. Presumably, David Nucifora, the chief of the pro game here, will influence the big and small picture stuff like contracts. If Ireland seek to follow the Schmidt model only Lancaster comes close for experience of the minutiae. The 49-year-old has immersed himself in the Leinster ways, reviving the province in Europe while nurturing the rise of Scott Penny, Caelan Doris et al.
Farrell was a clever IRFU appointment in January 2016, instantly creating the idea of succession-planning while providing Schmidt with an alpha personality on his coaching ticket, seemingly to help fill the void caused by Paul O’Connell’s retirement. Temporarily rerouted to Munster, that four-month secondment, with Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby’s recent preseason in Belfast, should prove valuable next season and beyond.
Besides the needs of Leinster, there isn’t any clear barrier to deny Farrell and Lancaster working together.
Recent evidence – like Conor Murray’s contact being inked in September yet the rumour mill being allowed to fester for two months – tells us the IRFU 2023 coaching strategy has been internally agreed. “My father . . . used to say graveyards are full of people who thought they were indispensable,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne last month when asked about Schmidt. “The reality is the plan can’t be built around one person, it has to be built around systems, processes and structures.”
It’s unclear where Schmidt and Lancaster will be working come 2020, but Farrell will remain under contract to Irish rugby. “When Andy speaks, people listen,” said Dallaglio of his teammate en route to the 2007 World Cup final. “If he wants it, he will be the right man for the job.”
The moment Eddie Jones said no to Farrell, I thought it was a mistake