Joe Schmidt’s era as Ireland coach will come to an end following the Rugby World Cup, with Andy Farrell stepping up to take over. It is big boots to fill for the English man, as Schmidt masterminded a first ever competitive victory over the All Blacks, as well as the 2018 Grand Slam.
Regardless of what happens in Japan, the question that remains is this, is Farrell ready to be head coach of one of the world’s leading nations? The evidence suggests that the timing couldn’t be any more perfect for him.
His coaching career has been littered in tremendous successes, following an impressive playing career in rugby league with Wigan. Father of England star Owen Farrell, his rugby union career did not hit the heights on the field, but it has had just as much glory from the touchline.
Farrell was involved with Stuart Lancaster for England’s victorious 2012 Six Nations campaign, going on to be part of the Lions side which toured Australia in 2013, Warren Gatland singing his praises given the few scores conceded thanks to his excellent work in defence. Ireland’s improvements under the Schmidt-Farrell alliance have been monumental, with the Irish now among the most feared opponents in world rugby – and provincial sides top of the pile at Champions Cup and Pro14 level.
What Farrell has done in his time with Ireland has upped the standards, and his promotion is just reward. It’s something that has been earned, rather than a token gesture of continuity. There will be fire in his belly in challenging England, given Eddie Jones’ decision to sack him when taking over at Twickenham.
There are few better mentors to have in sport, let alone rugby – than Joe Schmidt. Farrell is a coach of the highest calibre, and given the names that were touted, the fact that he has been chosen to take over is testament to his credentials. His work ethic has been second to none, replicated in the consistent successes and ability to overcome obstacles that his teams have displayed in recent times.
Farrell has the respect of his players and many have him to thank as they have blossomed into some of the finest players in the sport. No one is expecting any miracles from Ireland at this year’s World Cup, but there is an air of excitement about an era of rugby that could produce some of the best results this small country has ever seen.
Ireland are a force on the world stage, that is an achievement in itself. It is something to attribute to Farrell and Schmidt, and it is the right step at the right time on the career ladder.
There will always be scepticisms, but if Farrell is good enough for the IRFU, he should be good enough for the fans.