Thursday 8 December 2016

George Hook: I'm unhappy with the appointment of a failed coach who wielded excessive power with England

Published 07/01/2016 | 02:30

Andy Farrell
Andy Farrell
Joe Schmidt has made a big call in bringing Andy Farrell into his coaching team. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile

In a move that is sure to spark a great deal of discussion in rugby circles, the IRFU yesterday announced that former England and Lions assistant coach Andy Farrell would be the new defence coach to Ireland under Joe Schmidt.

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The IRFU may have announced it but Schmidt made the decision and it says a lot about where Ireland now are under the Kiwi.

The coach is under pressure going in to this year's Six Nation's Championship but Farrell will not take up his new role until after the competition has concluded.

Interestingly, his contract runs until the completion of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Given recent history of coach longevity, there is no certainty that the head coach will survive that long.

Nobody doubts Farrell's expertise but many doubt his loyalty.

Happily, son Owen is not coming with him but his inability to recognise talent and evoke strong morale were obvious during the Rugby World Cup, when it was an open secret that many squad members were unhappy with his involvement in selection.

Schmidt is one tough hombre but he is taking a big risk for not any immediately obvious advantage.

The idea that only Rugby League adherents can coach defence is now out of date.

In the early '90s Eddie O'Sullivan was formulating new techniques at Connacht and the late Brian McLoughlin was using Rugby League videos at Leinster.

In his tweet yesterday, Brian O'Driscoll suggested "expect line speed and great kick chase" as if they were secrets imparted at Lourdes. Over a decade ago at TCD, Tony Smeeth was coaching those very skills.

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The Rugby League theorists are passé. Defence has no hidden secrets but given that Ireland is now playing an out-of-date strategy of non-offloading, unique in world game, maybe this appointment makes sense to the head man.

The biggest concern about this appointment is that once again we have handed the game over to foreign coaches that have no intrinsic connection to Ireland other than a monthly pay cheque.

It is 40 years since George Spotswood was appointed the IRFU's first director of rugby and we still do not have an established coterie of Irish coaches other than a couple of rookies at the helm of two of the provinces.

The biggest criticism of this selection is that Farrell was part of a failed England set-up where he wielded excessive power; where morale was an issue; and crucially he displayed a lack of independent thinking.

Like the Renua manifesto said, "three strikes and you are out." Farrell has had his three strikes. I for one am not happy.

Irish Independent

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