For the Rugby Union of Football, every slash of the press release, which announces Andy Farrell as Ireland's next head coach, will hit indefinitely. If England had not collapsed from the Rugby World Cup in 2015, Farrell would still be at Twickenham and the modern history of rugby might seem very different. Talks about sliding doors.
In retrospect, Eddie Jones's decision not to keep Stuart Lancaster's assistant when he was given the chance in December 2015 will fall among the most generous Anglo-Irish gifts. Until Jones tried to get back the former UK rugby leader earlier this year, it was too late. In collaboration with Joe Schmidt, Farrell helped build the most formidable team in Ireland all the time, reflected in their clean run at this year's World Rugby Awards.
Schmidt was remarkable – 46 wins in 62 matches with a strike rate of 74% – with the power to add more to Japan in the World Cup next year. But when the Kiwi tries to spend more time with the family – regardless of whether his coaching "retirement" is definitely still to be seen – will be Farrell's show. The nanosecond that IRFU has taken to promote it suggests that its employers have the absolute faith in its ability to propel Ireland up even higher.
Why not? Wherever he played and trained, Farrell won much more often than not. He was the captain of the UK in rugby at 21, scored over 3,000 points in 370 Wigan games, was the youngest player to have won the Challenge Cup final at 17 years 11 months and became only the second British player after Ellery Hanley, to be crowned World Player of the Year. As the coach of defense on the last two British and Irish tours, he has not yet lost a series.
Players, not least in Ireland, love him for two main reasons. First of all, he walked the walk, which always commanded respect. Maybe even more speak their language. A few years ago, a very experienced national old-age coach told me that Farrell's recent retirement was absolutely natural in terms of simple and effective communication. When he talks players, he listens and often makes a mental note not to let him fall.
His famous speech, "We're Taking Boys in the Sick Arena," before the third Lions test in Sydney in 2013 is just an example of Wigan's uncompromising attitude that has been introduced to him since he debuted at the age of 16 against Keighley. "She was certainly determined by fear," she once told me. "You knew you would get it Monday if you had made a mistake. On the first day, you taught yourself to know your job and work as much as you could."
He also went on as an apprentice carpenter "at 30 pounds a week" for the Wigan Council, but at the age of 21, he knew he wanted to be a head coach. He had seen how Wigan's Graham Lowe and John Monie worked and had many of his own ideas. "I wrote things down from all the coaches I had in my career, I suppose it's the kind of player I was, I was never an individual player, I was always a team player, I've always been a captain. It was the way the teams played together. I was lucky to be a player I liked to train, watch videos, I do not see it as a job, I see it a pleasure.
He also had a short spell under Jones at the Saracens, and, as to a man who once won a Steel Man and Golden Boot award in the same year, he was never a single trick . "Andy was a warrior who headed the front and did not take a prisoner, but he was also a great tactician," recalled Phil Larder, the man who named him Captain of Great Britain. The pressure does not prevent Farrell; when he had to flee for the life pursued by an angry crowd in Papua New Guinea, as he did in 1996, the Aviva stadium is the children's play. We were followed around the field with sticks. We had to try to jump on a minibus, get to the end. The minibus was supported at the gates, the gates were opened and we all had to pile up. People hit her side and we said, "Go, go, go!" "
With his Irish legacy, both on his side and his wife, one of his brothers, Phil, represented Ireland in rugby in 2003, and suggested he felt more at home in Dublin than at Twickenham. Given that his son Owen is now leading England, the Farrell effect is now a multinational phenomenon. The rugby world will be fascinated to see what happens when Ireland hosts England in the first weekend of the Six Nations Championship in 2019 but in Farrell's household – "It's a professional, I'm a professional. You do your job, do not you Anyone who hopes that Ireland will be a tougher touch without Schmidt being condemned to disappointment.