Andy Farrell has so far spent less than 24 hours with those Ireland players who will be charged with putting his defensive theories into practice in South Africa this summer, and beyond, but the early feedback has been nothing but positive.
Joe Schmidt assembled 44 players in Enfield last Monday for a quick conclave that included one 45-minute training session and a handful of meetings.
It was the first official function with the team for Farrell since signing on as defensive coach with the IRFU.
Though he was appointed in early January, a clause in his previous RFU contract prevented him from aiding Ireland’s bid to capture a hat-trick of Six Nations titles and that saw him diverted instead to Munster on a temporary consultancy basis.
Farrell’s CV is well-thumbed, his roles with Saracens, England, the 2013 British and Irish Lions there for all to see and evaluate. Leinster prop Jack McGrath was among the majority of Ireland players for whom this would have been a chance to make a good first impression.
“He is taking everyone on an even par,” said McGrath. “He is making up his own mind on what he sees in training. We had a good session on Monday down in camp. His ideas are really good. England and Saracens haven’t had exceptional defences by accident.
“He’s been behind it and it is something I am looking forward to getting my teeth into. He is a really passionate guy about it. With the quality of coaches we have there and adding him to it, it’s going to be excellent.”
Jamie Heaslip was one of eight of those players in camp this week who would have worked with Farrell on the same successful Lions tour to Australia three years ago and the No. 8 confirmed the new coach’s role was a prominent one four days ago.
“Obviously, we’d known him and those lucky enough to have been on that Lions tour were very excited when we heard the news. He’s a very good coach and he’s a fantastic lad. The lads were a bit intimidated by the size of him.
“I said: ‘wait until you see him train in the gym’ because he can still bang it out. I’m pretty excited. He was showing us what he’s about. Different coaches have different words that they like to use within the system.
“Systems vary a little bit and he was just getting us on his page, using his language. That has been blended into what we have. It has been somewhat seamless but it was real exciting. The training session on Monday morning was ‘D’ stuff, getting on that page with the different systems.”
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