The IRFU's announcement that ex-England coach Andy Farrell would join Joe Schmidt's backroom team surprised many. We didn't know what to make the appointment of the successful British & Irish defence coach, who had been part of England's colossal failure at the most recent World Cup.
Across the Irish sea, even the English commentators didn't have a united reaction to the news. For some, like World Cup winner and Sky Sports pundit Will Greenwood, there was a sense of what might have been as the questions began as to why Farrell was allowed to leave the English rugby system:
Perhaps a simplistic view but why is Andy Farrell not being kept somewhere in English Rugby? Talented, young, ambitious.
— Will Greenwood (@WillGreenwood) January 8, 2016
This was echoed in the Independent, where Chris Hewitt claimed that the RFU will not be pleased about Farrell leaving English rugby. The assumption is that they wanted him to learn how to be a head coach at a Premiership team as his next step, and there may be a return to international rugby with England in the future for Farrell:
The fact that Farrell has agreed a long-term contract outside of England will frustrate those who hoped he might get his hands seriously dirty by taking on a head coach’s role at a Premiership club. By taking on full responsibility for squad construction, selection and results, though, he could have revealed himself as a Test No 1 in waiting.
Greenwood subsequently retweeted some alternative views about why it's a positive for England that Farrell left, including the opportunity to develop his career, and learn from someone as highly rated as Joe Schmidt.
That seems to be the minority opinion from across the water though, with most people laying the blame of England's World Cup squarely on Farrell. Rick Broadbent, of the Times, is wondering why that opinion should change.
Broadbent's reasoning is simple - Farrell can't be as bad as we say, if Schmidt is as good as we say:
Farrell has been pilloried in recent times while Joe Schmidt, the Ireland coach, has been lauded as a rugby god for getting his team to kick the ball in the air and losing to Argentina. Now god has chosen clod. Something must be wrong, but it will not be us critics.
You can interpret this a few ways, either Joe Schmidt will get the best out of Farrell, or Farrell could prove the undoing of Schmidt.
The Guardian's Rob Kitson seems to think that no matter how Farrell does with Ireland, that the move increases pressure on Eddie Jones and England:
If nothing else the unexpected Irish coup, masterminded by the wily Joe Schmidt, increases the pressure on Jones to prove his own choice of lieutenants is even craftier.
That's music to an Irish rugby fan's ears, if nothing else.
The English seem to be as split about Farrell as we are, but their respect for Joe Schmidt is huge and they seem to be wary of Schmidt's plans for Farrell and how the appointment works out.
Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE