New crit­i­cism of Eng­land rugby for let­ting Far­rell leave

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Autumn Internationals - GAVIN CUMMISKEY

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

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