Farrell opens door for surprise return to national service
Highly rated coach walks out on Saracens to pave the way for a reunion with the England set-up
Andy Farrell has established a well-earned reputation for many things during his lifetime in rugby, but indecision is not among them. Hence the widespread surprise at his sudden move to sever ties with Saracens just a few weeks after re-committing himself to the recently deposed Premiership champions – a development that paves the way for a return to the England coaching set-up in good time for the autumn internationals against Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
Farrell, a rugby league great who switched codes in 2005 and represented England at the World Cup two years later, is still in the early stages of his coaching career. Even though his recent Six Nations stint alongside Stuart Lancaster and Graham Rowntree in the red-rose back-room team was an unqualified success, he did not feel ready to abandon the daily routine of club training in favour of the more sporadic brand of coaching on offer with the national side. It was this that led him to reject an offer of full-time employment at Twickenham.
This altered on Thursday night, when Farrell informed Saracens that he had changed his mind and tendered his resignation, despite the two years remaining on his contract. The Watford-based club were not best pleased – their statement confirming Farrell's departure was terse, to the say the least – and they could, if they so wish, make it very difficult for the 37-year-old Lancastrian to work elsewhere before the end of November at the earliest, but by appointing the long-serving Kevin Sorrell as their new backs' coach, they have signalled a reluctant readiness to move on.
There is no prospect of Farrell rejoining England with immediate effect: certainly, there are no plans for him to take an active role in South Africa, where Lancaster and company are currently preparing for the first of three Tests against the Springboks, although he may fly out to watch his son Owen play in Durban next weekend. Mike Catt, the World Cup-winning midfielder and former London Irish coach drafted in to fill the gap left by Farrell, has a contract taking him to the end of the tour.
It may be that Lancaster will retain Catt while adding Farrell to the mix. Even though the head coach wants to keep his back-room team "tight" and favours an integrated approach to training-field duties, Catt is regarded as an attack specialist while Farrell was the brains behind England's defensive operation during the Six Nations.
Lancaster has indicated more than once that three could become four if the right man becomes available. "I'm pretty open-minded about the whole thing," he said yesterday. "Andy did a brilliant job during the Six Nations and whether we go forward with three or four coaches is something I will consider after this tour. I rate him highly, but I'm not sure when he will be available." For his part, Catt was wholly relaxed: "It's nothing for me to worry about. I'm preparing for a Test series and two midweek matches. The last thing I need to be doing is thinking about this."
Meanwhile, yesterday's events at Sale were a little more predictable. The northerners won the "worst-kept secret of the year" award hands down by confirming Bryan Redpath as their new director of rugby, well over a month after it became patently obvious that the former Scotland scrum-half was on his way to the club from Gloucester. The West Countrymen are on record as saying they will consider legal action of they find proof of contact between Sale and Redpath prior to the latter's abrupt departure from Kingsholm.
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