RUGBY: Andy Friend linked to Ulster head coach role

Australian Andy Friend has emerged as a strong front-runner to fill the vacant head coach role at Ulster.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 19th April 2018, 12:58 am
Updated Thursday, 19th April 2018, 10:26 am
Jono Gibbes (pictured) could be replaced as Ulster head coach by Australian Andy Friend.
Jono Gibbes (pictured) could be replaced as Ulster head coach by Australian Andy Friend.

The 48-year-old led Australia 7s team at the recent Commonwealth Games but his contract, which expires in July, has surprisingly not been renewed.

Under Friend’s guidance the Aussie 7s players have risen to fourth on the World Series ladder and won the Sydney Sevens in February, they also reached the quarter-finals of the 2016 Olympic Games at Rio.

He was part of the Wallabies set-up for the 2002 Tri Nations Series and the 2003 World Cup, plus was skills coach at the ACT Brumbies under current England coach Eddie Jones.

At the Brumbies, Friend coached Christian Leali’ifano, the out half who joined Ulster last summer on a short-term contract before leaving in January to return to the Brumbies. The 19-times capped Wallaby has expressed a desire to return to the province at some stage.

Friend also coached another Ulster fans’ favourite in Justin Harrison while he was at the Brumbies. Harrison was instrumental in Ulster’s 2006 Celtic League win and is currently coaching at Narbonne in France but has been linked with a return to the Kingspan as forwards coach.

In 2005, Friend led the Australian U21s to the World Cup final before heading to the English Premiership with Harlequins for three years.

His next role was as ACT Brumbies head coach.

Friend had his contract terminated in March 2011 following a loss to the Melbourne Rebels and rumours of player discontent.

He went to Japan, spending two years as head coach at the Canon Eagles before doing another two-year stint with the Suntroy Sungoliath in advance of his post with the Australian 7s.

Friend played for Australia schoolboys and provincial rugby, mainly as a full back.