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Brian O’Driscoll reacts to Ireland coaching appointment

Farrell joins the Ireland coaching set-up

Farrell joins the Ireland coaching set-up

Andy Farrell has been appointed as Ireland defence coach.

Farrell, who left his position as assistant England coach last month, will take up the role following this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship, the Irish Rugby Football Union announced.

The IRFU said Farrell's contract would commence ahead of the June tour to South Africa and run until the completion of World Cup 2019 in Japan.

Farrell and his fellow England assistants Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt departed Twickenham following Australian Eddie Jones' appointment as head coach.

The trio were part of an England coaching team headed by Stuart Lancaster, with Lancaster leaving the Rugby Football Union in November following a dismal 2015 World Cup campaign in which England failed to reach the quarter-finals following defeats against Wales and Australia.

In a statement released by the IRFU, Farrell said: "To have this opportunity to work with a very talented management and playing group really excites me.

"With a wealth of top-class experienced senior players and a fantastic crop of youngsters pushing hard, the future is very positive for Irish rugby, and I can't wait to get started."

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt added: "It's great to have Andy coming into our coaching team.

"The quality of his delivery and breadth of his experience, as well as the positive impact he had when coaching a number of our senior players during the 2013 Lions tour, will add real value for us."

Farrell, 40, spent four years as an England assistant coach, in addition to being part of Warren Gatland's coaching support staff on the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour that was highlighted by a 2-1 Test series victory over Australia.

He won eight England caps as a player, including three appearances during the 2007 World Cup, after switching codes and joining Saracens.

Farrell had enjoyed an outstanding rugby league career, one that saw him make 370 appearances for Wigan, in addition to collecting England and Great Britain honours.

Farrell's appointment was welcomed by former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, who said on Twitter:

So Andy Farrell new @IrishRugby defence coach! Decent business that. Very good coach and motivator. Expect line speed & great kick chase.

— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) January 6, 2016

Ireland will bid to win a third successive Six Nations title this season. Their opening game is against Wales in Dublin on February 7.

And Schmidt will be eager to see his players bounce back from a disappointing World Cup campaign, when they made an emphatic quarter-final exit against Argentina.

Jones, meanwhile, has already moved on from Farrell, Rowntree and Catt by recruiting former England captain Steve Borthwick as forwards specialist and Saracens defence expert Paul Gustard ahead of the Six Nations campaign.

Roy Curtis on Christy O’Connor Jnr: A gentleman and a giant

'Beneath that trademark flat-cap, lurked a big, spongy, soft Teddy Bear'

‘Beneath that trademark flat-cap, lurked a big, spongy, soft Teddy Bear’

HE was the crown prince of Irish golf’s blueblood house, a gentle, beloved, benevolent, larger-than-life colossus.

A cartographer detailed to map Christy O’Connor Junior’s DNA would surely sketch a sequence of fairways, bunkers and greens: Golf, you see, was in his blood, it was his very genetic essence, the vital fluid that sustained him.
 
But it was his character that defined and elevated him, brightened so many lives, made him a floodplain on which a monsoon of the nation’s affection ceaselessly rained.
 
Beneath that trademark flat-cap, lurked a big, spongy, soft Teddy Bear; his heart was Par 5 in dimension; goodness gently lapped from him, a stream of kindness that meandered as quietly as Rae’s Creek or the Swilken Burn.  
 
The news – dismal, concussive, sudden, shocking and, for his family and friends, utterly heart-rending  – of his passing feels, to borrow the quixotic title of Lawrence Donegan’s celebrated tome, like a four-iron in the soul.
 
Eamonn Darcy, who shared a dinner table with Christy just days ago, could barely speak as he described the death, at 67, of his great friend as “the saddest day in Irish golf that I can remember.”
 
Few will be inclined to raise a dissenting voice.
 
Because, as with any national treasure, any individual whose life touches so many – be it Luke Kelly, Paidi O Sé, Kevin Heffernan – their death leaves a void on the landscapes. It is hardly necessary to have known Junior personally, or to have even met him, to feel the aftershocks of his passing.
 
For so many, his death will slam into soul with the velocity of the most magical thrust of Christy’s tremendous, high-octane, swashbuckling career: That enchanted Ryder Cup hour when he wielded a two-iron as a sorcerer’s wand, launching the immortal shot that drove a stake through the heart of Fred Couples and America at The Belfry 27 years ago.
 
As an iconic moment of the 1980s, a postcard from the gods announcing Ireland was emerging from the grim straightjacket in which it had so long being corseted, it belonged alongside Ray Houghton’s Stuttgart flourish a year earlier, Barry McGuigan’s laying of Eusebio Pedroza onto the Loftus Road canvas, Stephen Roche, ashen-faced but unbowed, atop La Plagne, Dennis Taylor breaking Steve Davis in the early hours of a Sheffield morning.
 
It was a moment of liberation, a transfusion of joy and confidence that elevated this son of Galway, carved his likeness on a sporting Mount Rushmore.
 
The sheer joy that drenched Christy’s features on that English Midlands lawn and transferred itself, as if by osmosis, to the tens of thousands gathered about that 18th green, was a gift to us, a debt we could never repay.
 
The courage O’Connor summoned in the crosshairs of the most suffocating pressure, the manner in which he reached out and embraced history, his subsequent relief and gratitude, the arms-outstretched, head-tilted giving of thanks to the heavens, together they form an eternal snapshot, a reminder of how great sport can transport us to the Penthouse Suite of life.
 
His reaction as much as his brilliance was what touched so many.
 
For if Junior was a patrician, scion of golf’s first family, nephew of Himself, the transcendent Christy Senior, he was also one of us.
 
He had the shape and stories of a man who enjoyed a glass, who believed life was for living.  He squeezed every last blob from life. His company was a joy.
 
Christy was, primarily, a family-man.  He knew the torment no father should, the terrible sting of having to bury a son; somehow though crushed by the devastating tragedy of his youngest son Darren’s 1998 death in a road accident, he never surrendered to bitterness or self-pity.

The years went on and he continued to greet the world with a smile as bright as a perfect sunrise.
 
He would win the Senior British Open twice, become one of golf’s foremost designers: His portfolio was as bulging as it was varied. He dressed Ireland in a necklace of gems: Headfort New, Concra Wood, Mount Wolseley and in, his beloved home place, Galway Bay.
 
And his charity work was unceasing.
 
As one friend said yesterday:  “He lived life to the full.  He had time for everybody and none for himself, that was the problem.”
 
But it wasn’t a problem at all.  It was who he was, his chromosomes were those of a colossus, his DNA that of a golfer, a gentleman, a giant.