Tommy Bowe reckons Andy Farrell is just a few years away from being ‘one of the best coaches in the world’.
The former winger enjoyed a glittering career for Ireland between 2004 and 2017, donning the storied green jersey on 69 occasions and running in 30 tries – with 14 in Championship action.
Bowe was part of the famous Ireland side who clinched their first Grand Slam title for 61 years in 2009, as he scored in their final Championship match against Wales in Cardiff to seal a memorable 17-15 win.
And the 36-year-old has been keeping a close eye on their recent progress since his international retirement, believing that while it may take some time, new head coach Farrell has what it takes to duel it out with the world’s best.
“Whatever happens in the future, Andy Farrell is going to be a coach who is going to be one of the best coaches in the world,” he said.
“It’s definitely a transitional period for Ireland, but having worked with Andy, there’s no doubting the fact that the man’s a winner.
“He’s got such an incredible winning mindset, and is an incredibly inspirational man, but going into his first Guinness Six Nations match against Scotland, that was probably the first time he’s ever had to pick a team!
“For somebody to go straight into a Championship at that level without having been a head coach is tough, and things like that come from experience.
“I think Andy’s been very open and honest with the journalists, the Irish public and the players, and speaking with the players there’s a real feel good vibe in the squad at the minute.
“I think Andy is a really exciting coach, and hopefully – for Irish rugby – we get to see the best of him.”
Farrell – who previously worked under Stuart Lancaster as England defence coach – is supported by attack coach Mike Catt in Dublin, who has also held roles in the England, Italy and London Irish set-ups.
And the duo watched their side get off to a mixed start to the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, as Ireland toppled Scotland and Wales before succumbing to a 24-12 defeat against England – who topped the table on points difference when the Championship was suspended – at Twickenham.
The men in green ran in seven tries in their three matches as Johnny Sexton, Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway and Robbie Henshaw all got on the scoresheet, showing glimpses of attacking prowess that offered fans cause for optimism.
But Bowe, who ran in two tries himself during that historic 2009 Championship followed by three in 2010, says developing into a clinical outfit inevitably takes time.
“With Andy, Mike and the new coaching staff, it’s going to take a year or two to try and find a new style of play and a new confidence within the side,” he added.
“It’s about finding a particular style of play and taking it to the next level – that’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.
“The toughest thing to try and change is attack – everyone can try and change defence, and you look at what Shaun Edwards did with France in almost two weeks.
“That’s a mindset, whereas attack is something that takes time – and Andy and Mike will be able to implement a new style if you give them that time.
“It’s exciting times for Ireland, and I’m excited for the future.”