Andy Farrell's team bus change is much more significant than you'd think 2 months ago

Andy Farrell's team bus change is much more significant than you'd think

"It's more relaxed, as opposed to, 'Put word your heads down and be quiet'."

On Saturday, as Aviva Stadium roiled in celebration, Andy Farrell stood at the edge of the pitch and left the glut of the stage to his players. It was their time to celebrate. They, he would later insist, had done all the hard work.


When Peter O'Mahony told us, last year, that this was the most enjoyable Ireland camp he had ever been involved in. It may have felt like lip-service of recency bias but his inside perception has now become clear for everyone to see. Even over on Instagram - though he would never share this footage himself - we saw O'Mahony belting out tunes and embraced by family members and teammates as he soaked in another Grand Slam.

This Ireland team has embraced that they are greater than the sum of their parts. The players are the ones that get to head out and have the fun, but the physios, kit-man, organisers, social media team and their nearest and dearest are on the journey, too.

Former England star Matt Dawson, watching on from the media section at Aviva Stadium, on Saturday, reflected on how his own parents were once not allowed access to an England Grand Slam function as they did not have tickets. Dawson loved the scenes he was beholding, as family and friends of the players, as well as all the coaches and backroom staff, mingled with each other and celebrated victory together.

On House of Rugby [LISTEN from 10:50 below] former Munster and Ireland star James Downey gave an insight into some of the small, and big, changes Andy Farrell has made since taking over from Joe Schmidt at the end of 2019.


Andy Farrell Johnny Sexton, Ireland captain, laughs with head coach Andy Farrell, at Aviva Stadium. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Andy Farrell building on Kidney and Schmidt successes


James Downey has transitioned from rugby player to a rugby agent, now, and has a good gauge of what changes Andy Farrell has implemented, as well as the culture he has helped set about in the Ireland camp.

"It's similar to what a lot of guys now say about Stuart Lancaster at Leinster," he reflected. "But you go back to his time with England and a lot of boys hated it, saying it was too much of a school-teacher and students feel to it.

"Maybe Joe Schmidt was a little similar - this is the regime and this is what we're doing. Andy Farrell was involved in that but has come in and said, 'Right, I've seen what works and what doesn't. I want to put my own print on this'.

"It's small things - it's getting everyone involved, it's letting players express themselves more. It's even something like the players getting their own coach to training, and there's no staff on that - they have a separate one. So, the players can be more relaxed as opposed to the coaches being on so you have to put your head down and be quiet. It's not like that at all.

"Even after that game at the weekend, you can see it with the families and everyone out there. It's all encompassing. It's that happy environment and it's players being allowed to express themselves - Mack Hansen being a huge person to benefit from it. There was that moment [against England] when there was the kicking tennis and Mack thought, 'I've had enough of this'. He went on a run and was slaloming through people. He had a crack back because that's the player he is... it is play your instincts [from Farrell] and the players are embracing it."

Even though Farrell does allow the players to make their way to and from training sessions, without coaches or backroom staff crowding them, there is still that hierarchy that exists in so many team bus scenarios.


As evidenced from Johnny Sexton's Instagram post, on Sunday, when he shared a picture of the back row big dogs - himself, Cian Healy and Peter O'Mahony.

'Every bus trip, same seats with these two', he wrote.

With Sexton and, most likely, Healy set to have their last hurrah at the World Cup, later this year, there will be some shifting about for those prime back row slots in 2024.



Related Articles: