Andy Farrell can't wait to get started in new role with Ireland
Andy Farrell says he "can't wait to get started" after being appointed as Ireland defence coach.
Farrell, who left his position as assistant England coach last month, will take up the role following this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship, the Irish Rugby Football Union announced.
The IRFU said Farrell's contract would commence ahead of the June tour to South Africa and run until the completion of World Cup 2019 in Japan.
"To have this opportunity to work with a very talented management and playing group really excites me," Farrell said.
"With a wealth of top-class experienced senior players and a fantastic crop of youngsters pushing hard, the future is very positive for Irish rugby, and I can't wait to get started."
Farrell and his fellow England assistants Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt departed Twickenham following Australian Eddie Jones' appointment as head coach.
The trio were part of an England coaching team headed by Stuart Lancaster, who left the Rugby Football Union in November following a dismal 2015 World Cup campaign in which England failed to reach the quarter-finals following defeats against Wales and Australia.
Farrell, though, will now return to the Test arena with Ireland, and Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt added: "It's great to have Andy coming into our coaching team.
"The quality of his delivery and breadth of his experience, as well as the positive impact he had when coaching a number of our senior players during the 2013 Lions tour, will add real value for us."
And Farrell's appointment was welcomed by former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, who said on Twitter: "So Andy Farrell new @IrishRugby defence coach! Decent business that. Very good coach and motivator. Expect line speed & great kick chase."
Farrell, 40, spent four years as an England assistant coach, in addition to being part of Warren Gatland's coaching support staff on the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour that was highlighted by a 2-1 Test series victory over Australia.
He won eight England caps as a player, including three appearances during the 2007 World Cup, after switching codes and joining Saracens.
Farrell had enjoyed an outstanding rugby league career, one that saw him make 370 appearances for Wigan, in addition to collecting England and Great Britain honours.
Ireland will bid to win a third successive Six Nations title this season. Their opening game is against Wales in Dublin on February 7.
And Schmidt will be eager to see his players bounce back from a disappointing World Cup campaign, when they made an emphatic quarter-final exit against Argentina.
Prop Cian Healy, though, faces a race against time to be fit to start the Six Nations title defence after undergoing a minor knee operation.
The Leinster loosehead opted to go under the knife to coincide with a two-week suspension, and will now fight to be fit for Ireland's appointment with Wales.
Healy's fellow Leinster prop Mike Ross is expected to return in time for the Wales game, but Schmidt will certainly want Healy on hand.
"Cian Healy underwent a scope and clear-out of his right knee yesterday afternoon," Leinster confirmed in a club statement.
"This was an elective procedure, and while we are still waiting for the report, it is expected that he will be out for three to four weeks."
Leinster confirmed that Ireland's linchpin fly-half Johnny Sexton has returned to full training and will be fit for Friday's Guinness PRO12 trip to the Ospreys.