Ireland winger Andrew Conway expects Andy Farrell to make a smooth transition to the role of national team head coach when he takes over from Joe Schmidt after next year’s World Cup in Japan.
Following the New Zealander’s much-anticipated decision to step down at the end of his current contract with the IRFU, Farrell was immediately unveiled as his eventual successor.
“I’m sure he’s been thinking about that [head coach role] for a while. Joe has put massive onus on the leadership group, and the coaching group that he has around him, to be all on the same page,” Conway remarked.
“He’ll be driving the defensive side of it and I’m sure he knows an incredible amount about attack, because that’s what he’s trying to marshal on a week-to-week basis.”
Before replacing Les Kiss as Ireland defence coach, Farrell held an advisory role with Munster rugby (keeping the seat warm ahead of JP Ferreira’s arrival). It was there that Conway first got a taste of the Wigan man’s methods – which proved to be an eye-opening experience for the 27-year-old.
“Andy has probably got a specific way for wingers and full-backs that he wants you to work. It is tough to adapt to that. It does take a while and it’s just repetition after repetition. Especially in the back-three, everyone knowing what the other guy is doing. I need to be able to look back and see where the 15 is.
“It’s tough working with Andy because he’s got such standards, but you see the benefit of it that comes out in the defence. Obviously keeping New Zealand try-less is pretty special. He’s done that a few times and been involved in huge victories over New Zealand. He’s definitely doing something right.”
While Farrell’s coaching style may be defined as unique, the same could be said of the man who has navigated the Irish team since the autumn of 2013. A haul of three Six Nations titles, a Triple Crown and a Grand Slam (not to mention the memorable Test successes over the All Blacks) speaks volumes for the work Joe Schmidt has done in the national set-up.
Thirty-eight of Conway’s 42 caps for his native Leinster were under the guidance of the ex-school teacher – who has played a huge part in his progression to the international stage.
“Working with Joe, he’s different to any other coach. The level of detail that he goes into, as you guys are well aware of from us all saying it, is just second to none. He’s got his own specific style.
“To play under him, you have to realise what that style is. Fit in first is probably the key thing. Fit into the way the game is played. Fit into what you need to do as a winger, as a full-back.
“What is expected of me going around the pitch. Rucking, high ball. It’s being consistent across the board. Once you do that, you can try and stamp your own mark on games. There’s a fine balance, but he’s been incredible. We’ve got him for another 10, 11 months. We’ll enjoy that hopefully while we can.”
Conway was speaking yesterday in Limerick, where he was announced as the new Life Style Sports brand ambassador. After grabbing a hat-trick in Ireland’s facile November Series win over the USA last Saturday, he returns to the Munster fold for Friday night’s PRO14 encounter with Edinburgh at Irish Independent Park.
He also has a healthy strike rate at provincial level this term (three tries in six appearances), but Conway is hoping his all-round game can prosper during a busy window for Johann van Graan’s side.
“I’m playing alright, but I want to get involved in the team’s carries and setting lads up. Not just getting out there, getting the ball when it comes to my wing and chasing a high ball when it’s a box kick on my side. I want to go out and put my stamp on games. If I can continue to do that, then I think I’ll be playing the best rugby of my career,” Conway added.
Andrew Conway announced as a Life Style Sports Brand Ambassador
Andrew Conway was today unveiled as a Brand Ambassador for Life Style Sports. To join the conversation and learn more about the partnership follow @lifestylesportsrugby and #LiveRugby.