Thursday 24 May 2018

Munster wanted to bring ex-England coach on board as advisor before he got Ireland's call

Garrett Fitzgerald pictured with Andy Farrell. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
Garrett Fitzgerald pictured with Andy Farrell. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Munster approached Andy Farrell about becoming part of their set-up before they realised he was in line to become Ireland's defence coach last week, chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald revealed yesterday.

The former England assistant coach attended his first training session at the University of Limerick yesterday, but will not have a hands-on coaching role with the province.

Instead, he will be asked to review the coaching team's methods and suggest "tweaks" that can improve the way of doing things at the southern province.

It is expected that he will spend two days a week in his part-time position, having been contracted for four months. He cannot take up his role as part of the Ireland staff until after the Six Nations under the terms of his release from his RFU contract.

"It's predominantly with the coaches, it's a coaching advisory role," Fitzgerald said. "I'm sure he'll observe sessions, he'll make a contribution on the planning and organisation but at this present moment he's working with the coaching team.

"It was a complete coincidence that when he was on our radar, the IRFU were actually in discussion with him.

"We didn't know that at the time. He fitted the bill really because, whilst there were a number of other people available, his knowledge of the northern hemisphere game and being just out of international rugby and all the background he has, he was the ideal fit."

While Fitzgerald (pictured with Farrell) said he did not believe that the appointment of an experienced coach with a strong voice would undermine the already under-pressure Anthony Foley, the head coach himself welcomed the outside assistance.

"I spoke with Garrett and John Kelly (former Munster winger and chair of their Professional Games Board) on Thursday and the suggestion was this was an option if it was OK with me.

"It was a very short conversation to be honest with you. It was something that, as a professional, I couldn't turn my nose up at.

"I saw it as a great opportunity to get somebody with vast experience in around the playing group and coaching group, that has had very good highs in his career and had a few lows along the way, and been able to manage both of them, and look at it from a different point of view.

"He wouldn't have been in a Munster changing-room or a Munster meeting-room, so he can come in with fresh views, ideas, different ways of looking at stuff in terms of being in and around training and stuff like that.

"He's free to talk to the players as well. You have a fellah who's a legend of the game. There's nothing better than talking to people like that; just sitting down and having a cup of tea or coffee with just to get any information you can off him.

"It's not an on-pitch job. Even today he's on the back of it, looking around and seeing what we're doing and trying to get a fuller picture of what we're about. I suppose it all depends what view you want to have of it. My view is pretty simple. It was an opportunity that I couldn't turn down and I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I said no."

Foley said he hoped that Farrell's fresh voice can help revive a season that is rapidly getting out of hand for Munster.

"There's no hiding from the fact that we're in a bad run of results," he said.

"You take the Ulster win to one side and we're in a bad run of results, and we need something that has an ability to lift (us), and I think having someone in and around, even though it's only a couple of days a week, will add a bit of impetus hopefully."

Meanwhile, BJ Botha is out of Saturday's game against Stade Francais with a knee injury, but Andrew Conway, Donnacha Ryan and Tommy O'Donnell could all feature.

Irish Independent

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