Ulster hope to have Dan McFarland in place for pre-season after confirming new head coach
Scotland forwards coach Dan McFarland will replace Jono Gibbes as Ulster head coach next season.
It was announced today that McFarland is leaving his role as Gregor Townsend's assistant coach with Scotland, but in a press release, Scotland said that he will continue as forwards coach until January.
However, Ulster hope to have new head coach McFarland in place in time for pre-season.
While the Scottish Rugby Union have officially said that their forwards coach will be in situ until early 2019 as he works out his release clause, it is expected that he will be released once a replacement is found and could be with Ulster by the start of pre-season.
The province are aiming to avoid a repeat of the scenario where Les Kiss took over after the 2015 World Cup, denying him a chance to work with the team when the season was already well under-way.
The SRU are understood to be disappointed to lose a coach of McFarland’s calibre so close to a World Cup, but given Ireland are Scotland’s pool rivals, they are unlikely to bring him on the summer tour of Japan.
Ulster's operations director Bryn Cunningham will work with McFarland as they look to add two new faces to the coaching ticket, with a defence coach a priority.
Assistants Dwayne Peel (backs), Aaron Dundon (scrum) and Niall Malone (skills) will remain in place having served under Les Kiss and Jono Gibbes this season.
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McFarland previously spent 15 years at Connacht, six as a prop and nine as an assistant coach, and is widely respected on this island for his experience and insight into Irish rugby.
This is reflected in the fact he moved straight from playing to coaching, whereupon it took the wily Townsend to convince him a move to Glasgow Warriors was in his best interests.
When the former Scotland out-half was promoted to national coach, McFarland went with him in another sign of the impression he made working with Townsend.
McFarland knows Irish rugby inside-out and is respected for his intelligence and all-round knowledge of the game.
Independent.ie understands that McFarland was one of a number of candidates interviewed in recent weeks with Jim Mallinder, Glenn Moore and Steve Tandy mentioned in dispatches.
Speaking to the Ulster website, McFarland said:
"I am really excited that I will be taking on the Ulster Head Coach role. I know firsthand from my years visiting with Connacht and Glasgow the passion and fervour that makes playing in front of Ulster fans so special."
Ulster's Head of Operations Bryn Cunningham said that McFarland was their number one choice.
"Dan was our number one candidate so we're obviously very happy to have secured his services for the next three years," he said.
"Dan's CV is hugely impressive and he commands great respect within the game."