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Kieth Earls thrilled as Irish decide to bring in Andy Farrell as defence coach

By Ruaidhri O'connor

Ireland star Keith Earls has hailed Joe Schmidt's decision to appoint former England assistant coach Andy Farrell as his new defence coach on a three-year deal to 2019.

The rugby league legend was not kept on by new England coach Eddie Jones when the Australian took over from Stuart Lancaster after their disastrous home World Cup campaign.

Schmidt has been on the look-out for a new defence coach since Les Kiss left his position to take over as Ulster's Director of Rugby after the tournament and has opted to appoint the 40-year-old who has worked with a number of Ireland's senior players during the 2013 Lions series victory over Australia. Significantly, his contract runs until the 2019 World Cup, unlike Schmidt whose current deal expires in June 2017.

The new man will not join Schmidt's team until after the Six Nations and his first involvement will be on the three-Test tour of South Africa in June.

Earls started all five of Ireland's World Cup games last autumn and believes the appointment of such a highly respected figure will be welcomed in the Ireland dressing room.

"It's massive. When I heard, it was exciting. He's a fella I admired as a rugby league player, as a rugby union player and as a coach with what he's done with the Lions as well," the Munster winger said.

"I suppose he seems to have this persona, this confidence about him. Any team he works with seems to want to run through a wall for him.

"So, it's probably going to be interesting the week of an England game, playing or coaching against his son (Owen Farrell), but he's a professional fella who will go about his business.

"I asked Paulie (O'Connell) what he was like and Paulie had great praise for him; hopefully I'll get to work with him."

Earls, meanwhile, is set to return to the Munster side to face Stade Francais on Saturday along with Conor Murray, Simon Zebo and Andrew Conway, but Donnacha Ryan is unlikely to be fit.

Munster boss Anthony Foley, who acted as Ireland's defence coach on the 2013 tour of North America, said of Farrell: "He'll have an opinion.

"He won't come in there and go through the motions. He's worked with Warren Gatland in the Lions and all the feedback I've heard from the players who have worked with him has been extremely positive.

"The best person for the job gets the job and that's the way you have to be. It's about Ireland winning and making sure the players are the best looked after, get the best advice, Ireland stay on the front foot as much as possible."

Aside from the dynamic between Schmidt and his new man, it was interesting to note that Farrell's contract runs beyond that of the head coach, whose current deal, signed last year, expires in 2017.

The former England international, however, is an IRFU employee until after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

There has been speculation that Schmidt may look to move home to New Zealand when his contract expires and perhaps the union have indulged in a spot of succession planning when it came to bringing in such an experienced figure.

Farrell's figure will loom over the upcoming Six Nations, with the current coaching ticket of Schmidt, Simon Easterby, Greg Feek and Richie Murphy set to guide the team through their Championship defence.

It is a shame Farrell won't be able to make his mark before the summer tour of South Africa, but Ireland appear happy to wait, having gotten their man.

Belfast Telegraph


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