We look at the reasons the British and Irish Lions have selected Ireland head coach Andy Farrell to lead them on the 2025 tour of Australia, live on Sky Sports…
He’s been in charge of Ireland since the conclusion of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, first leading them into the 2020 Six Nations, and his impact on the Emerald Isle has been pronounced.
Below, we look at the successes and strengths which have marked Farrell out as the standout option to take charge of the famous touring side.
From specialising as a world leading defence coach, to taking hold of Ireland’s stunning attack, and all the while proving himself as a top-end motivator and leader, this is why the Lions have chosen Farrell…
Moving Ireland to No 1 in the world playing an attacking brand of rugby
Farrell took over as head coach of an Ireland side who had endured a miserable 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign, losing to hosts Japan in the pool stages and being totally dominated by New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
Confidence and morale in the camp was low, with the squad’s form having fallen off a cliff as a stellar 2018 turned into a disastrous 2019. Farrell set about making the Ireland camp a more expressive place, both in terms of attacking play on the pitch and team meetings off it.
Players ultimately emerged from the shadow of Joe Schmidt’s quite dictatorial head coaching style and environment into a more freeing one under Farrell.
There were early hiccups as Ireland underwent a huge transformation on and off the pitch, with 2020 seeing largely inconsistent performances across the Six Nations and autumn – either side of a long Covid-enforced break – but 2021 saw the shoots of what Ireland would eventually become under Farrell.
The 2021 behind-closed-doors Six Nations began with a disappointing defeat to Wales in Cardiff with 14 players after Peter O’Mahony’s first half red card, and then a tight home loss to France where injuries saw Ireland shorn of Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray and James Ryan.
Round 3 saw a dominant and attacking win in Rome, Round 4 an entertaining success at Murrayfield and Round 5 an outstanding display against England in Dublin, with Ireland going 26-3 ahead before winning 32-16. For many, the final Test in that 2021 Championship was the true arrival of Farrell’s Ireland.
November 2021 saw Ireland go into attacking overdrive, beating Japan 60-5, the All Blacks 29-20 in a magnificent display, and Argentina 53-7. Gone were the days of a stunted and negative attack, relying on one-out carries and pre-rehearsed set-piece moves.
Ireland were suddenly the quickest attacking side bar none in terms of ruck speed, and committed fully to a game-plan which welcomed and incorporated linebreaks, offloads and players thinking on their feet.
In four years of coaching Ireland, Farrell has an 81.4 per cent winning record. But take Ireland from March 2021 and that win over England to today, and that win percentage rises to over 90. All Blacks levels of the past.
Ireland’s performances and attack has only improved under Farrell, with 2022 and 2023 seeing a grand total of 21 wins and three defeats to sit alongside a number of trophy triumphs.
Six Nations Triple Crown and Grand Slam feats with Ireland
The first of those trophies under Farrell came in the 2022 Six Nations, when Ireland pushed France all the way for the title but just fell second, with the Round 2 meeting between the sides in Paris a humdinger which saw Ireland fall to a tight defeat even without talisman and skipper Sexton.
Within that Championship, Ireland smashed Wales and Scotland in Dublin, and England at Twickenham to claim a richly deserved Triple Crown, though, picking up bonus-point victories in each Test.
A historic summer tour to New Zealand followed, before November 2022 saw Ireland record impressive victories over South Africa, Fiji and Australia, with the mind and focus then firmly narrowed on a 2023 Six Nations clean sweep.
Ireland entered the championship having only won three Grand Slams in their history (1948, 2009, 2018), but a clean sweep was duly secured in dominant and scintillating fashion.
Wales were blown away 34-10 on the opening weekend in Cardiff to sour Warren Gatland’s homecoming, while Round 2 saw one of the best contests in the history of the championship as Ireland put in a near-perfect display to beat reigning champions France 32-19 in Dublin.
From then, Farrell’s charges were favourites for the title, seeing off Italy 34-20 in Rome, Scotland 22-7 at Murrayfield on a day when they overcame an in-game injury crisis which saw prop Cian Healy scrummage at hooker and flanker Josh van der Flier throw into the lineout, and finally, England 29-16 in Dublin.
Onto the 2023 World Cup in France, world No 1 ranked Ireland beat eventual champions South Africa 13-8 in Paris in an epic Pool B contest, and then Scotland 36-14 to top the group of death – all as part of a winning run which ultimately stretched to 17 Tests, one shy of World Rugby’s record of 18, when Ireland lost a dramatic quarter-final to the All Blacks.
Despite that painful World Cup failure, Farrell was still named 2023’s World Rugby Coach of the Year.
Historic series victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand
While Farrell’s exploits in winning trophies and beating each nation in the world in Dublin over recent years will have marked him out as a favourite for the Lions role anyway, the cherry on top of the cake is his previous success with touring sides.
With Ireland, his squad took on the might of the All Blacks in New Zealand during the summer of 2022, live on Sky Sports, and after losing the opening Test, Ireland fought back to make history by winning the second in Dunedin (their first ever victory vs NZ on Kiwi soil), and then went one better by winning the third Test decider in Wellington, wrapping up a 2-1 series win.
An ecstatic Farrell termed the achievement “the toughest thing to do in rugby”, with the series the first time New Zealand had lost back-to-back home games since 1998, a first home series defeat since 1994 (2-0 vs France), and a first three-Test home series defeat since 1986 (2-1 vs Australia).
It possibly remains his greatest achievement with any side. If he can take Ireland to New Zealand and win a series from behind, Farrell will be expected to take the best players from Britain and Ireland and beat the Wallabies in Australia.
Speaking of Australia, Farrell has actually been a part of a series victory vs the Wallabies already, with Ireland as well. In 2018, when Farrell was defence coach under Schmidt, Ireland fought back from a first Test loss to win back-to-back Tests in Melbourne and Sydney and claim a 2-1 series success.
He’s toured the southern hemisphere successfully with a certain side that plays in red before too…
Lions experience as defence coach and leader on successful 2013 and 2017 tours
Farrell may be taking on the head coach role for the first time, but he will not be in unexplored territory as far as the Lions are concerned.
In 2013, Farrell was selected by Gatland as Lions defence coach on their tour to Australia, impressing players immensely in a series which saw the Lions take a 1-0 lead with victory in Brisbane, lose the second Test late on in Melbourne, but win the third Test decider 41-16 in Sydney to wrap up a 2-1 series victory.
Farrell’s reputation took something of a hit after England’s ill-fated 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign on home soil, but Sexton and co had been impressed enough to recommended his hiring to Schmidt with Ireland – a move which was confirmed in January 2016 for after the 2016 Six Nations.
By the time the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand rolled around, Farrell had been part of an Ireland group which had beaten New Zealand for the first time in their history in November 2016 in Chicago, and denied Eddie Jones’ high-flying England a 2017 Six Nations Grand Slam with victory in Dublin.
Like in 2013, Farrell was appointed Lions defence coach for the memorable 2017 tour to face the double-world champion All Blacks in New Zealand.
The tourists were massive underdogs, with very few giving them any chance of success, but after losing the opening Test, the Lions fought back to win the second and draw the third as part of a sensational drawn series.
One has only to watch Lions documentaries from both the 2013 and 2017 tours to see what a major influence Farrell has had and been. From inspirational pre-game speeches to selection meetings, Farrell is a coach who has been a central part of the Lions environment previous to now.
Sky Sports will exclusively show the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia, with all three Tests and six warm-up matches to be shown live.
The agreement sees Sky Sports broadcast its eighth consecutive Lions Tour, with the partnership starting in 1997 with the iconic 2-1 series win over South Africa.
The Lions tasted success the last time they were on Australian soil in 2013, with a dramatic 2-1 series win following a memorable performance in the decisive final Test.
Having been defeated in a Covid-impacted tour of South Africa back in 2021, the Lions will be aiming to make it a second successive series win in Australia as they kick off the first Test at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
The Lions will play nine games on tour all around Australia, beginning against Western Force in Perth on June 28, 2025.
Further tour games follow against Queensland Reds in Brisbane on July 2, the Waratahs in Sydney on July 5, the Brumbies in Canberra on July 9, an Invitational Australia & New Zealand side in Adelaide on July 12 and the Rebels in Melbourne on July 22.
That game will take place after the opening Test in Brisbane on July 19, with the second Test at the MCG in Melbourne on July 26 and the final Test in the Accor Stadium in Sydney on August 2.
The Lions will also play in Ireland for the first time as they take on Argentina in a June 2025 warm-up fixture, also live on Sky Sports, ahead of their tour of Australia.
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