TOP MAN: Dan McFarland can take Ulster to the next level believes Bryn Cunningham

New Ulster Rugby Head Coach Dan McFarland
New Ulster Rugby Head Coach Dan McFarland

Ulster operations director, Bryn Cunningham, said one of the reasons Dan McFarland was appointed head coach at the Province was because of the belief he was the man to take the current group of players to the next level.

The former assistant at Scotland, Glasgow and Connacht, was finally released from his contract early by the Scottish Rugby Union and able to take up his position at Kingspan Stadium on Monday morning.

It came several months after he was appointed and much discussion between the IRFU and their somewhat stubborn Scottish counterparts.

Although Scotland had already appointed Danny Wilson as an assistant coach to Gregor Towsend, they still insisted McFarland had to fulfill his contractal agreement in Edinburgh until January 2019.

However, a deal was finally struck last Saturday securing McFarland’s release. It is understood any payment from the IRFU was considerably less than the SRU had benn holding out for.

At Tuesday’s Guinness PRO14 launch, Cunningham said it was important McFarland had now taken up his post with the Province albeit 12 days in advance of the first game of the season against Scarlets in Belfast.

“Something we knew from the outset there would be an outside possibility he would not be in for a few more months.

“But we always hoped he would be at the end of pre-season and turned out that way and he is in before the start of the competitive games which is fantastic.

“It will give everyone a real lift around the place. We have had a good pre-season it feels like on-pitch wise it is the final piece of the jigsaw put together.”

Ulster had said at the time of the appointment that McFarland was their ‘number one’ choice and Cunningham expanded on that further.

“There are a lot of factors go into getting a head coach and getting the right person. It is not an exact science.

“Some people think they need to have a lot of experience as a head coach previously and Dan has not had that, I think the main thing for us was how they can lift this group to the next level.

“We have had a big turnover in the playing squad, some of the olders guys (like Rory Best) still about and bring a huge amount of leadership within the group.

“But we have an unbelievable amount of talent coming through the group and I think it is really important we got someone who is good at really developing as well, it is not just about results and performance.

“That is a huge part of it in the here and now, but we have our eye on the medium and long term as well,” added Cunningham.