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IRFU expect Farrell to bring clear vision in 'challenging' 2020 Six Nations

The Englishman will gather his squad for the first time just before Christmas.
Dec 5th 2019, 8:00 AM 14,687 19

ANDY FARRELL IS already well into his new gig as Ireland head coach, attending provincial matches, meeting with coaches, and plotting for what he hopes will be a bright future.

The Englishman stayed on in Japan after being part of the miserable Irish exit at the quarter-final stage. He watched his son, Owen, as he captained England in the semi-finals and final.

But Farrell has been a busy man from virtually the moment he set foot back on Irish soil. With the Joe Schmidt era over, the 44-year-old is now very much the man in charge. 

andy-farrell-and-john-fogarty-attend-the-game Farrell has been a presence at provincial matches in recent weeks. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

His first task is lifting the spirits of Ireland supporters with a big Six Nations campaign in 2020, while a summer tour in Australia then November Tests against the Springboks, Japan, and the Wallabies mean it’s going to be a busy year.

With two new assistant coaches in the shape of attack specialist Mike Catt and scrum/forwards expert John Fogarty, there is a fresh feel to Ireland’s backroom, while many fans will hope there is a similar sense of renewal in the playing squad.

Farrell will be keen to implement his own ideas around selection and tactics as he takes over from Schmidt, but the pressure will be on to get results immediately as Ireland open their Six Nations campaign with home games against Scotland and Wales.

“In international rugby coaching, the pressure’s never off you,” said IRFU performance director David Nucifora yesterday as he looked towards the Six Nations.

“What does good look like? I think performance-wise, first we want to see good performances that he and the players and the supporters can be happy with. I think if the team can play to their ability, anything’s possible – as we’ve shown in the past.

“It will be a challenging enough Six Nations, I think. Coming off a World Cup, you’re not sure where everyone’s at, you’re not quite sure who’s going to turn up or how they’re going to turn up.

“We have a few different coaches involved so it will be an interesting Six Nations with a few different permutations that could come out of it, so I’m looking forward to it.”

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andy-farrell Farrell is in his first permanent role as a head coach. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

One focus of Ireland’s review into the World Cup failure in Japan this year was the team’s style of play under Joe Schmidt and a lack of evolution.

Irish supporters will be waiting with excitement to see what Farrell and Catt come up with in terms of attack and though Nucifora was giving little away, he does expect the new boss to have a very clear philosophy.

“I know he’s got a clear vision about where he wants to go and how he wants to do it,” said Nucifora. “He also understands that there are things that created those successes [for Ireland] in 2016, 2017, and 2018 – that you want to bank and try to improve some of them as well. Bank them and then add to them.

“I think that style of play will evolve over time, what he wants to get to. I doubt very much whether he’s going to sit here and say, ‘We’re going to do this and it’s going to look like this.’ I’ve never asked him that question but I know he has a vision.”

Farrell is set to meet the media as Ireland head coach for the first time on 23 December, when he will gather an extended squad for a 24-hour training camp as they begin to bed in ideas and systems for the Six Nations next year.

Nucifora opted against detailing new “changes of responsibility” within Farrell’s coaching team, although The42 understands that Simon Easterby will take charge of defence

“That will freshen things up and excite people,” said Nucifora of the changes. “The new additions with Mike and Fogs, all of that shifts the dynamic. They’re already working incredibly hard together as a group.”

andy-farrell-with-jonathan-sexton-ahead-of-the-game Farrell has a big call to make on Ireland's captaincy. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Nucifora believes the fresh coaching staff will help as Ireland look to rebound from the disappointment of the World Cup. While Farrell was part of the shortcomings in Japan as defence coach, the IRFU doesn’t see him as tainted in any way.

“Like anything, you benefit from experience and it might be harsh and it hurts but the benefit you get from losing, you actually learn more, so he’s got that benefit and he’s now in charge of running the show,” said Nucifora.

“He’s a very experienced coach and he’s going to take all of those experiences in setting his own direction but, in saying that, he’s a smart rugby person as well and he understands what needs to be kept.

“He understands what needs to be built on but he also understands what he wants to do to put his stamp on things going forward.”

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Murray Kinsella

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