Andy Farrell’s appointment as Joe Schmidt’s successor after the 2019 World Cup has been met with a sense of ‘what could have been’ from the English rugby public and media.
Farrell, of course, was axed from the England coaching set-up along with Stuart Lancaster and Graham Rowntree after the ill-fated 2015 World Cup where the Red Rose failed to get out of the pool stages.
Since then, Lancaster has gone on to succeed with Leinster as the club’s senior coach whereas Graham Rowntree continued his forwards coach role with the British and Irish Lions as well as Harlequins and the Georgian national team.
Farrell, after he left England, joined up with Ireland just over half a year later ahead of the summer tour of South Africa in 2016 – his defensive nuance has helped both Ireland and the British and Irish Lions to secure historic victories over the All Blacks over the last two years.
Former England head coach Clive Woodward, writing in his column for The Daily Mail, has questioned the RFU’s decision to let him go three years ago.
“In fact, that losing experience can be the making of a coach and for the last few seasons, Ireland have benefited massively from the hard yards Farrell put in with England,” Woodward wrote.
“The feedback from Farrell with England was always positive so where was the necessity to ditch him after the World Cup?
“The RFU have never grasped the nettle and put a rugby man with the necessary experience in charge of rugby appointments and the result has been a succession of CEOs — with no experience of coaching national teams — making these crucial, sometimes nuanced decisions.”
When the news filtered through on Monday that Farrell was to succeed Schmidt after the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Woodward admitted that he was “almost filled with despair” that Ireland got the opportunity to lock down such a top-quality coach.
“With Andy Farrell taking over from Joe Schmidt after next year’s World Cup, you can only conclude Ireland’s gain is England’s loss.
“First, congratulations, yet again, to Ireland for their clever and intelligent handling of their coaching succession.
“As for England missing out on a brilliant homegrown coach, I am almost filled with despair. Farrell has always been an outstanding individual, a great player and a coach of massive potential.”