Munster head coach Anthony Foley believes it would have been unprofessional to veto Andy Farrell’s appointment as a coaching consultant for the rest of the season.
Struggling Munster, dumped out of the Champions Cup last Saturday following a humiliating 27-7 defeat by 14-man Stade Francais in Paris, yesterday moved to arrest a slide that has seen the province lose seven of their last eight matches in the Guinness Pro12 and Europe.
Less than a week after Farrell was unveiled as Ireland’s new defence coach starting this summer, Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald announced the former England assistant would be taking a part-time advisory role for the next four months.
Farrell watched Foley and his backroom staff take training in Limerick yesterday and introduced himself to coaches and players with Fitzgerald explaining the former Wigan RL legend, released by the RFU last December after England’s failed World Cup campaign, would serve as “additional support for our coaching staff.”
While Farrell, 40, was prevented from joining the IRFU immediately due to his severance agreement with England, the coach was free to take up this role away from the international game and Foley welcomed the move.
“I spoke with Garrett and John Kelly (chair of Munster’s Professional Games Board) on Thursday and the suggestion was this was an option if it was okay with me,” Foley said.
“It was a very short conversation. I think it was something that I couldn’t as a professional turn my eye up to.
“I saw it as a great opportunity to get somebody with vast experience in around the playing group and coaching group, (somebody) that has had very good highs in his career and had a few lows along the way, and been able to manage the 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.”
Foley confirmed Farrell would assist Munster two days per week but said it was merely a better known figure performing an advisory role similar to a shorter stint last season from Italian Federation technical coordinator Franco Ascione.
“Last year we brought in Franco as well for a week in terms of doing workshops and stuff like that.
“It’s something that I think you do as a coaching group, you do as a group in terms of trying to add something extra, get a different view on it.
“We’ve done it in the past, probably not as high profile, because I think the opportunity has come up this way.
“But it’s something I think if you want to develop, and I’ve done it as a coach and a younger version of me, going to another country to see how they coach, and I think that’s important, that you have that ability.
“You can’t shy away from it and see it as a weakness.
“You see it as a challenge and you see it as an opportunity to learn a bit further.”
Nor was Farrell’s input restricted to Foley and his assistant coaches Brian Walsh, Ian Costello, Mick O’Driscoll and Jerry Flannery, the head coach encouraging his players to also make the most of the resource now available to them.
“My view is he’s free to talk to the players as well. You have a fellow 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 too 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’.”
CEO Fitzgerald insisted Foley’s position was not under threat.
“Anthony remains in the head coach role, there’s no change in that.
“I’m sure the whole idea is that (Farrell) will have opinions, he’ll express them and discuss them but there’s no change to the decision-making.”
Foley and his assistant coaches are out of contract at the end of June and while the head coach has a one-year extension option to the two-year deal he signed when replacing Rob Penney in 2014, there would be no discussions until next month.
Fitzgerald agreed that were Foley to walk away, as he hinted he might in the wake of Saturday’s defeat, then Munster would need to know sooner rather than later or risk a situation Leinster found themselves in last summer when they parted company with head coach Matt O’Connor too late to hire an experienced replacement.
“We’ll review the situation once the Six Nations kicks off, that would be fair,” Fitzgerald said.
“The point (that Leinster left it too late) is very valid, there’s a limited number of top class coaches available at any time around the world.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved