'Beers on the table, be yourself' - Andy Farrell, Eddie Jones and a common philosophy
"We came from a tee-total culture."
As assistant coach to Stuart Lancaster [England] and Joe Schmidt [Ireland], Andy Farrell observed how to meticulous planners went about getting their teams ready for sessions, games and tournaments.
As assistant to Warren Gatland on a couple of Lions tours, he saw how the Kiwi loosened the reigns in an effort to quickly aid with players from four different countries come together and form a bond. In 2020, when he became head coach with Ireland, Farrell got a chance to implement his own style on proceedings.
2020, as we all know, was majorly disrupted with lockdowns, postponements, bubbles and cancellations. Whatever grand plan Farrell had for running his Ireland camps would have to wait until the summer and autumn of 2021.
Ireland went on an eight-game winning run and, following November victories over Japan, New Zealand and Argentina, veteran back-row Peter O'Mahony marvelled:
"I speak for the group in saying that it’s been an incredibly enjoyable month. I was chatting inside and having a beer there and it’s just been great fun. We’ve learned a huge amount as a group and the cohesion that we have built has brought us to that next level of friendship which is so important.
“I was chatting with Hugo [Keenan] there, and I have loved the month. It’s probably the most enjoyable one of my career so far, which has been a while now. It’s been great."
Sean O'Brien is still in touch with some of the players in the current Ireland camp, for the 2022 Six Nations, and he notes how different it appears to be from the detail-driven caps run by Joe Schmidt. "We became too rigid," O'Brien reflects. "We didn't evolve, like the [Ireland] boys have now."
On JOE UK's House of Rugby [LISTEN from 43:00 below], O'Brien and former England captain Dylan Hartley spoke of how similar camps are under Andy Farrell and current England boss Eddie Jones.
"He literally put beers on the table"
Andy Farrell played under Eddie Jones when he and Steve Borthwick were co-captains at Saracens. When Farrell retired, he became assistant coach under Jones and got a feel for how the game worked from the sidelines.
Jones moved on to club rugby in Japan before managing Japan up to the 2015 World Cup. While Japan missed out on a quarter final place, like hosts England [with Lancaster and Farrell the main men], their pool stage win over South Africa was seismic. He was offered the England job, not long after, and Dylan Hartley, who Jones made captain in 2016, says camp-life quickly changed.
"Eddie is all for the players. I just think the environment that was created before [under Lancaster] was very much school teacher and student. It was very much like, 'This is what we're doing', 'This is what you're going to say at media time'.
"Whereas Eddie sat down and said, 'This is going to be your team. We're going to have some non-negotiables on the field, until you guys are good enough to come up with your own stuff. But it's your team - do what you want with it'.
"There had been little things, over the years, like post-match functions, days off. It was all so rigid. Everyone else was thought of first, instead of the actual team, or the talent. We just pushed back on a few things - can we do this, can we say that, can we wear this? And, all of a sudden, it was like big wins for the boys, as they had come from such a strict regime. The buy-in was brilliant!
"Eddie was so forthcoming with us driving our own environment. When a group of people drive their own environment, this round table, it's more empowering. Everyone feeds into it, rather than being told what to do the whole time.
"We came from a tee-total culture to Eddie. He literally put beer on the table, around the week."
Andy Farrell influence on Ireland squad praised
When Hartley mentioned how Jones has taken a more relaxed approach to players getting together and sharing a beer or two, during camp, O'Brien chipped in:
"It's funny you say that. That's what it is like in the Ireland camp, at the minute. That's the way it is with Faz.
"It's an enjoyable place to be when you go in there. It's not like you're thinking, 'I need to do this or that'. You're not rigid."
"You can be yourself," Hartley exclaimed.
"It was a big change for us [in 2016] but, long-term, I can see the benefits now. Players are driving it themselves, now. Hopefully they benefitted from what we put in place."
WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY HERE: