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Wales and England might regret stepping onto the coaching merry-go-round.

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Ex-Ireland player's Farrell versus 'out of whack' Borthwick verdict

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Antonietta Baldassarre/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images)

An ex-Ireland international has explained why he believes Andy Farrell has been a soaraway success as a Test team head coach compared to the unimpressive start that Steve Borthwick has made as England boss. Both men served their apprenticeships as international level assistant coaches, Farrell working under Stuart Lancaster with England and Joe Schmidt with Ireland before taking charge of the Irish for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.


Borthwick likewise had a two-country tuition, working under Eddie Jones with Japan and then switching to England before breaking out on his own, leading Leicester to Gallagher Premiership glory last June and then succeeding Jones as the English head coach in December.

While Farrell currently has Ireland on the cusp of clinching a fourth-ever Grand Slam, Borthwick is under immense pressure following the shaky start to his tenure which culminated in last Saturday’s record home defeat at Twickenham, an embarrassing 53-10 loss to a French side that Ireland outgunned 32-19 in a Six Nations classic in Dublin last month.

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Gordon D’Arcy was a 2009 Grand Slam winner with Ireland and he has now compared the very different positions that Farrell and Borthwick – assistant coaching colleagues on the 2017 Lions tour – now find themselves in ahead of this Saturday’s round five Ireland versus England showdown in Dublin.

Asked how big of an impact on Irish rugby Farrell has had since leaving England following the 2015 Rugby World Cup, D’Arcy told ICE36: “It is all about respect. As a former player himself, he holds a lot of respect amongst the Ireland players. He treats them as adults.


“A lot of the players have young families and kids and the hardest part about going away and playing internationally is nine weeks away from your family. There is a balance to it and getting that right is good, but the only way to get that right is to ask people. He seems to have that relationship with players because of the respect he has within the playing group, and he respects them as well which is interesting.


“He brought in some high-level coaches alongside him as well; obviously Paul O’Connell is kind of a similar personality in the sense that he captained his country, he holds a lot of respect and again respects people and understands that it is a two-way street.

“Mike Catt’s rugby IQ is kind of off-the-charts and Simon Easterby – there are an awful lot of similar characteristics across that backroom staff and that reflects into the players. They have created a game plan where you can make mistakes and the paradox is that when you create an environment where players are free to make mistakes, they tend to make fewer. The reason is that they try out different things and see what works.

“It is a hindsight bias to say, ‘England let him go’. I’m not necessarily sure this approach would work with England, even though it works for Ireland. That is why when you look at what Borthwick did for Leicester – and is trying to replicate it with England – you must work out whether it is the right thing or the wrong thing.

“He went into a Leicester squad that was already assembled by Geordan Murphy and he got the credit for a squad that he put together!


“He is probably working out now that head coach at international level is more about the rapport you have with the players than necessarily the tactics. Maybe that is what seems to be out of whack.

“The one thing about Eddie Jones is that he bypasses rapport – he tells you exactly what it is, or he just cuts you out and finds someone more ruthless than you to take your place. That is what worked for England repeatedly, so you must wonder why they needed to make a change this close to the World Cup.”


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