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Andy Farrell to reach major milestone in Springbok rematch

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Ever since Murray Kidd was abruptly removed from office and replaced by Brian Ashton, who came and went just 13 months into his six-year deal in the early throes of professionalism, longevity of service is something you associate with Ireland head coaches, despite collective Rugby World Cups failures.

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Obviously, Warren Gatland is better-known for his exploits with Wales, a relationship that has spanned 13 years across two spells. But even the Kiwi lasted 34 Tests in charge of Ireland, between 1998-2001. All of those that followed him into the job have presided over more than 50 Tests and on Saturday in Durban, Andy Farrell will join the half-centurion’s club.

Eddie O’Sullivan was appointed as Gatland’s successor in 2001 and lasted seven years in the job, taking charge for a record 78 Tests, before resigning after a poor Six Nations campaign in 2008. Declan Kidney came in and led Ireland to an elusive Grand Slam in 2009. But his overall record wasn’t impressive and after a five-year reign that saw him only win a fraction over half of his 53 Tests, the IRFU wielded the axe.

Having slipped to their lowest-ever world ranking of ninth, Ireland appointed Joe Schmidt hoping that the Kiwi would be able to translate the success he’d enjoyed with Leinster to the international stage. As we all know, it turned out to be an inspired decision.

Schmidt led Ireland to Six Nations titles in 2014, 2015 and 2018, and masterminded two historic victories over New Zealand, in addition to guiding Ireland to second in the rankings. The Kiwi left in 2019 with an impressive winning record of 72%. Farrell has not only bettered that but also took Ireland to number one in the world in 2022-23.

Andy Farrell
Andy Farrell will oversee his 50th Test as Ireland Head Coach in Durban this Saturday.

Farrell’s apprenticeship under current Wallabies boss Schmidt clearly stood him in good stead, although the journey to 50 Tests did not get off to the smoothest of starts. Narrow victories over Scotland and Wales in the first two rounds of the 2020 Six Nations appeared to be something of a false dawn as Ireland only won half of their next 10 matches. But in the 37 Tests that have followed, Ireland have only lost five more times on his watch.

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Overall, Farrell has won 39 of his 49 matches in charge of Ireland, giving him a win percentage of 79.5%. That makes him the most successful permanent head coach of Ireland in the professional era, and that’s without mentioning back-to-back Six Nations titles and an unprecedented 2-1 series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand. Next summer he will take the British & Irish Lions Down Under to Australia.

Under Farrell, the Aviva Stadium has virtually been impregnable, the Dublin venue having hosted just one defeat – the 13-15 loss to France in 2021 – since his tenure started for real with the visit of Scotland in February 2020.

Ireland have won their last 19 home matches, with only South Africa in November 2022 managing to finish within seven points of them during that spell. It’s their longest winning run at home, eclipsing the 12-game streak between 2016-18, which ended when England beat them in round one of the 2019 Six Nations during the latter stages of Schmidt’s reign.

Another standout statistic is that Ireland have only lost back-to-back once in Farrell’s time at the helm, when they suffered consecutive defeats to Wales and France at the start of the 2021 Six Nations.

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In terms of resolve, this Ireland team is a mirror image of Farrell the player, the former Rugby League Man of Steel wouldn’t tolerate anything less, so they’ll be desperate to bounce back from last week’s 27-20 loss to the Springboks in Saturday’s rematch in Durban.

Ireland’s year-by-year Test record under Farrell

2020

W 19-12 v Scotland (H)
W 24-14 v Wales (H)
L 12-24 v England (A)
W 50-17 v Italy (H)
L 27-35 v France (A)
W 32-9 v Wales (H)
L 7-18 v England (A)
W 23-10 v Georgia (H)
W 31-16 v Scotland (H)

2021

L 16-21 v Wales (A)
L 13-15 v France (H)
W 48-10 v Italy (H)
W 27-24 v Scotland (A)
W 32-18 v England (H)
W 39-31 v Japan (H)
W 71-10 v USA (H)
W 60-5 v Japan (H)
W 29-20 v New Zealand (H)
W 53-7 v Argentina (H)

2022

W 29-7 v Wales (H)
L 24-30 v France (A)
W 57-6 v Italy (H)
W 32-15 v England (A)
W 26-5 v Scotland (H)
L 19-42 v New Zealand (A)
W 23-12 v New Zealand (A)
W 32-22 v New Zealand (A)
W 19-16 v South Africa (H)
W 35-17 v Fiji (H)
W 13-10 v Australia (H)

2023

W 34-10 v Wales (A)
W 32-19 v France (H)
W 34-20 v Italy (A)
W 22-7 v Scotland (A)
W 29-16 v England (A)
W 33-17 v Italy (H)
W 29-10 v England (H)
W 17-13 v Samoa (N)
W 82-8 v Romania (N)
W 59-16 v Tonga (N)
W 13-8 v South Africa (N)
W 36-14 v Scotland (N)
L 24-28 v New Zealand (N)

2024

W 38-17 v France (A)
W 36-0 v Italy (H)
W 31-7 v Wales (H)
L 22-23 v England (A)
W 17-13 v Scotland (H)
L 20-27 v South Africa (A)

Overall
P 49, W39, D0, L10

Home
P 26, W25, D0, L1

Away
P 17, W9, D0, L8

Neutral
P 6, W5, D0, L1

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Comments

3 Comments
F
Flankly 2 days ago

I am an Ireland fan, but not at all a fan of the cynical forward play that they have adopted under Farrell.

It feels like Farrell takes after his son - very talented but happy to cheat to win. Ideally Karl Dixon gets tough about ruck misbehavior, but the Boks can't count on that. They will need a smart strategy to neutralize Irish ruck cheating.

If you want to track it, take a look at the Laws, as published by World Rugby. Read the part about binding when going the ruck, and then watch carefully to see whether Ireland ever follow the rules.

B
BeegMike 3 days ago

Those are impressive stats. You have to go as far back as 2021 to see Ireland losing two games in a row. It is going to take something special from the Boks to make that happen again.

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