Irish rugby is set for a blockbuster 2019 as Joe Schmidt looks to defend the Six Nations crown and plans for a successful World Cup before his departure. The transition plan is in place for Andy Farrell to assume the mantle, but there are other Irish coaches who have a big part to play.
It has already been confirmed that scrum coach Greg Feek taking up a position with Japanese side Ricoh and thus that is a vacancy the IRFU will also have to fill. On this week's episode of World in Union, Balls.ie's new rugby show getting the global view on the sport, we discussed the coaches who could have a big say on the game in 2019.
Lancaster was the starting point for the discussion. The Leinster coach has been hotly tipped to come on board post-Joe Schmidt's reign and take on the role as backs coach and Farrell's number two. However, he has recently been linked with Bath and the constant plane journeys over-and-back from the UK can take their toll.
For 2019, it should become a priority to tie Lancaster down, whether it be for Ireland or Leinster.
Ireland's set-piece has never been healthier and a huge amount of credit must go to Greg Feek. When he first arrived in 2014, Ireland had an infamous reliance on pivotal players for the scrum to function, firstly in John Hayes and then in Mike Ross. They now have unprecedented depth.
Fogarty's work with Leinster could see him seamlessly transition into the Irish set-up after the World Cup. He has a necessary degree of perspective and longterm planning and not just at senior level. Mike Ross was brought back into the Leinster academy set-up to mentor young props earlier this year.
The renowned All Blacks scrum guru Mike Cron is a former coach of Greg Feek, and the student turned master last month when Ireland dominated the New Zealand scrum. Fogarty can ensure the standard does not slip moving forward.
The new Ulster coach has had a promising start to his reign in the north. When he was at Connacht, players were foreright in their praise for McFarland's one-on-one sessions and video work. McFarland then went and built up his CV by working in Glasgow and graduating to forwards coach with Scotland.
For the betterment of Irish rugby, four strong provinces are a necessity and last year's shambles in Ulster cannot be repeated. In the long term, McFarland's CV suggests he could be a potential option to integrate into the Irish set-up.
Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Porter, Jordan Larmour. Just some of the names to graduate to the senior set-up from Nigel Carolan's U20 set-up. The 2018 outfit won three games during the u20’s Six Nations and ran England close.
Carolan is familiar with both the provincial and Irish set-up and has returned to Connacht to take charge of an electric backline. When Joe Schmidt leaves, Ireland will need to recruit a backs coach and while Stuart Lancaster is an obvious contender Carolan is also more than capable.
Last week, O'Gara said he would be interested in an Irish return at some point: "I would be in contact with a few of the guys from the IRFU. Having played all my rugby here, I'm trying to create my own journey as a coach. It changes very quickly. One phone call could change anything.
"At the minute, I'm in New Zealand, extremely happily contracted to the Crusaders and will be for a while."
There is no question that Irish rugby should look to utilise O'Gara's expertise at some point in the future and a vacancy next September is an ideal opportunity to avail of that. In the meantime, it is beneficial and encouraging to see an Irish coach building up experience abroad.
The one area that Ireland seemed to struggle in November was the line-out. It still seems hugely reliant on Devin Toner and Simon Easterby will no doubt dedicate time to working out the kinks ahead of the 2019 Six Nations. Paul O'Connell is another man who has the expertise to perfect the set-piece and develop a better strategy.
He recently left the Irish U20 set-up for France, although there is a capable team left behind including Elite Player Development officer Ambrose Conboy and former Irish rugby player Tom Tierney. This is a big year for O'Connell's coaching development as he cuts his teeth with Mike Prendergast at Stade Français.