Gordon D’Arcy backs surprise choice for next Ireland head coach

Gordon D’Arcy believes Connacht head coach Andy Friend would do “incredibly well” in charge of Ireland after Andy Farrell’s time is up.

Friend has been in charge of Connacht since 2018 and while the Australian coach has had some disappointing days in Galway, the westerners have been playing an exciting brand of rugby since his arrival.

Former Ireland and Leinster centre D’Arcy was writing in his column for the Irish Times and argued that the head honchos in the IRFU would be making a mistake to not seriously consider Friend for the top job.

“At some point in the future when the Irish coaching job comes up, I believe the IRFU would be amiss if they didn’t take a drive to Galway and have a conversation with Andy Friend,” D’Arcy wrote.

“I think he’d do incredibly well as a national coach. With the hand he has been dealt and the resources at his disposal in Connacht, the case could be easily argued that in Ireland, he is currently the standout coach.”

Connacht’s record under Andy Friend.

Connacht haven’t won any silverware since Friend arrived in Galway, but the westerners did make the quarter-finals of both the Guinness Pro14 and the European Challenge Cup in their first season under the Australian.

Friend’s side have struggled to put in consistent performances in his three seasons at the province, but Connacht have claimed some major wins, including a first victory against Leinster in Dublin in 19 years earlier this year.

It’s fair to say that Connacht don’t have the same quality in their squad as the other three provinces and yet they are more than competitive with their Irish rivals, having claimed away wins against Ulster and Munster in the last few weeks.

Many of Connacht’s squad members have come from the other three provinces and D’Arcy praised Friend’s ability to get the best out of players who were deemed surplus to requirements elsewhere, likening them to Exeter Chiefs.

Gordon D’arcy – ‘What Friend has done is get individuals to overperform.’

“There is an awful lot of the Exeter model around what Connacht are doing in that expansive game plan, which requires a lot of accuracy under pressure. We’ve seen that a number of times,” D’Arcy explained.

“What Friend has done is get individuals to almost overperform for him. There are players there who could be lazily labelled as damaged in that they didn’t succeed in other provinces.

“Like Exeter, Connacht take players from other places where they have struggled. They buy into the culture they are offered and then become a representation of that culture.”

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