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Hope for Ulster in battle with Scots over McFarland

In limbo: Dan McFarland is still under contract with Scotland
In limbo: Dan McFarland is still under contract with Scotland

By Michael Sadlier

Ulster are hoping that a new development in Scotland's coaching structure may now accelerate the release of Dan McFarland to take over at Kingspan Stadium ahead of their pre-season beginning next month.

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However, it also appears that his current employers Scotland are still thinking of holding Ulster's new man to a contract until January 2019.

Scottish Rugby's confirmation that Danny Wilson will be their new forwards coach from August - after the Cardiff coach was able to back out of a move to Wasps - has raised hopes that McFarland will be able to end his tenure early as part of Gregor Townsend's coaching ticket.

Ulster certainly need the tug-of-war over whether McFarland stays in Scotland until January or comes here this summer to be resolved in their favour.

McFarland was appointed as Ulster's new head coach on a three-year deal in April, but is contracted as forwards coach with Scotland until the New Year, which the SRU made known after it emerged that he was coming to Belfast.

Yesterday's official statement from the SRU, formally announcing Wilson's appointment, reiterated that McFarland will only hook up with his new employers early next year, which will be a worry for Ulster should their new head coach not be in place for the start of the forthcoming season.

Even so, Ulster will be hoping that letting McFarland go to his new role now would seem the most pragmatic course, especially with Wilson in place, instead of simply holding him to a contract which would effectively mean months of 'gardening leave'.

Ulster's need is also pressing as they bid to put last season's notable difficulties firmly behind them with a new man in charge of the squad.

They are due to play their first game on August 18 in a pre-season friendly with Gloucester at Kingspan Stadium and badly need McFarland on board.

The 46-year-old former Connacht and Glasgow Warriors forwards coach is currently touring North America with Scotland and staying with the squad, who fell to a shock 30-29 defeat to the USA in Houston at the weekend, until their final game in Argentina on Saturday.

Ideally, once the tour ends McFarland will be allowed to take up his new job, though clearly this has yet to be confirmed with the SRU seemingly not softening on their stance in mentioning the 2019 release when unveiling their already rumoured move for Wilson.

Scottish Rugby agreed terms with Wasps after Wilson was all set to work with the Premiership club's Director of Rugby Dai Young at the Ricoh Arena.

On securing Wilson just over a year away from the World Cup, Townsend said: "I would like to thank Wasps for enabling this to happen."

Wilson recently led Cardiff Blues to victory in the European Challenge Cup.

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