Farrell in the media room of the Aviva Stadium today. Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Farrell remains 'full steam ahead' with focus on Six Nations, but excited about taking over as head coach

Ireland’s defence coach says there are still ‘permutations’ to be figured out before he finalises the backroom team he works with from 2020.

IT WON’T BE long now before Andy Farrell is a regular in that seat at the top of the Aviva Stadium’s press room.

After Ireland’s open training session today, the future head coach took his place in front of the media, his first time in front of the mics since being named as Joe Schmidt’s successor in November.

This was not the time to outline grand plans for 2020 and beyond, however. The World Cup will be a defining period for his squad, and he insists the Six Nations is not out of reach either.

As questions rained in about his succession to the hotseat, Farrell cut a slightly bemused figure.

He didn’t have much to add to the statement he made when awarded the job in November -  “a privilege to be considered for such a prestigious role” – he is a man of action. Instead he determinedly maintained focus on the three matches remaining in the Six Nations, and the eight months ahead.

“Not at all,” he said when asked if this Championship felt different with him being head coach in waiting.

“When you’re in it, it’s full steam ahead with the job in hand and the day job. No, the Six Nations is always just the same, it’s a bloody good competition, very intense, emotional rollercoasters everywhere.”

Andy Farrell with Joe Schmidt Farrell and Schmidt on the field ahead of the loss to England. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Aside from the ups and downs of the annual Championship, Farrell is conscious of the moving parts he must find a place, or replacement, for. Not least in his backroom team with Schmidt’s exit making room for an attack or back-line specialist or Greg Feek leaving a hole in Ireland’s scrum work. Then there is his current role as defence coach, will he continue overseeing that aspect, or invite someone else to take it on.

“We’ll see. There’s different permutations when a coaching team come together, when a management team come together.  It’s all about gels and fits. As things become clearer over the next couple of months, we’ll get to that.”

He adds: “There’s planning that has to go on behind the scenes. Honestly, I’m unbelievably conscious of making sure nothing gets in the way of the day job.

“Things are (progressing along), but there’s not too much wrong the Irish setup at this moment in time. There might be a little bit of drop-out along the way, but continuity is a good thing for us. Because what we do is working.”

The former dual-code England international says the prospect of taking over the Ireland job is “100%” the biggest challenge of his coaching career. It is not one he will shirk, though, as he has been striving to continually improve during time working under Stuart Lancaster and Joe Schmidt.

“You’re learning all the time, aren’t you? No matter who you’re working with.

“The experiences that you go through together (with Schmidt) whether it be the losses, a poor performance or whether it be the wins – you’re learning constantly. What you get when you’re in our environment is you get to share those ideas and we tend to give quite a lot of feedback to each other.

Andy Farrell Farrell has a word with his players in training at the Aviva Stadium today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“You’re learning constantly all the time and it obviously shapes the way that you think and learn on the run.” 

“(Getting the job was) a great moment obviously, as I say in the statement, I’m proud and privileged to be asked to take over after such a brilliant coach like Joe.

“Fortunately enough, I get a bit of time to keep on learning in the meantime. It’s a massive honour to be given the opportunity. Why? Because it’s a privilege to be involved with a group. The people that we’ve got; the players, the staff. The players are great people to work with. I feel where we’re going in the future is a bright place as well.”

The opening day loss to England and patchy win over Scotland have ever so slightly dimmed that future in some eyes, or at least reigned in expectations before the World Cup.

The clear and present for Farrell, however, will remain the Six Nations. And although England (thanks in no small part to his son) are in superb form and six points clear of the reigning champions Farrell certainly isn’t giving up the title chase.

“Of course it is. It has to be,” he said when asked if the Championship was still a realistic goal.

“I’ve been involved in six Six Nations now and you never know what’s going to happen at any stage. Even though you would like a bit of momentum, it’s not decided on the first week.

“There’s lots of permutations that can happen and we need to be well placed to put our best foot forward when that arises.”

Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey break down Ireland’s dogged win against Scotland in Murrayfield, and look at the room for improvement, in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

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