Andy Farrell's comments when he first arrived in Ireland prove he was always one of us
The epitome of an honorary Irishman.
Whilst all eyes were on Johnny Sexton in the aftermath of Ireland's historic Grand Slam victory over England on St. Patrick's weekend, one can't forget the impact which head coach Andy Farrell has had since arriving on these shores back in 2016.
Initially brought in as defence coach under former Ireland and Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt, the Wigan man was seeking to rebuild a reputation which had been shattered by England's infamous pool stage exit at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. And rebuild it Farrell has.
The former England forward has gone on to oversee a historic period in Irish rugby since his Kiwi predecessor's departure, claiming famous series wins in both Australia and New Zealand, alongside Saturday's Grand Slam ecstasy.
With such an impressive list of achievements during his tenure as part of the Irish coaching ticket, one could wonder just how the head coach of the world's number-one-ranked team has slotted in so seamlessly to the role.
The answer to that question lies in an interview Farrell gave to The Irish Times upon his arrival on the Emerald Isle, back in June of 2016.
When reading the interview with the added context of what has transpired under Farrell's stewardship within Irish rugby, it is immediately clear that Farrell's grasp of Irish people and culture has played a crucial role.
Hailing from the northern-English town of Wigan, Farrell spoke back in 2016 of the intimate connection shared between that part of the UK and Ireland.
"Everyone from the north-west of England is from Ireland anyway. You go from Liverpool straight across the east Lancshire to Manchester and it’s full of Irish. I’ve got [Dublin] ancestry that goes back three or four generations, and so has my wife", said the then-Ireland defence coach.
Noting the similarities between life in Ireland and the north of England, Farrell joked that moving south for his role as an England assistant coach caused more upheaval than his jaunt across the Irish Sea.
"The big move for us, and anyone else from Wigan, is to move down south. That’s the big move", said the former Saracens back rower.
Clearly relishing the move to the Irish capital, Farrell added that:
"Coming to Ireland and living in Dublin is almost like going home for me. Just the people and family-type atmosphere".
Upon reflection, whilst these comments stem from a near-seven-year-old interview, their resonance is as strong as ever in the wake of Ireland claiming a first-ever Grand Slam title on home soil.
With Farrell describing his time as Ireland head coach as "the most proud I have ever been as part of a group", it is clear to see just how much the fans and players have rubbed off on him.
Fans will now be hoping that Farrell's intrinsic Irishness can continue to drive this era of unprecedented success, as attention now diverts towards the mammoth task of World Cup glory in France later this year.
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