Ulster’s new coach Dan McFarland expected to be in situ sooner rather than later

Dan McFarland
Dan McFarland

Although contractually tied to the Scottish Rugby Union until January 2019, it is expected Ulster’s new head coach Dan McFarland will be in situ at Kingspan Stadium long before that.

After a teasing announcement from Ulster Rugby’s operation director, Bryn Cunningham on Saturday after the Guinness PRO14 game between Munster and Ulster when he confirmed the next head coach had been signed, but the name could not be revealed for a number of weeks, rumours began to circulate as to who the successful candidate was.

Explaining the reason for the delay he said: “It’s just a mutual thing from our point of view and where the coach is coming from.

“You have to have respect for each other’s situation and it’ll take a bit of time before both are content to release it formally.”

But as soon as Dan McFarland’s name was linked to the role and a Scottish Rugby announcement appeared saying “...he (McFarland) will leave his role as Assistant Coach with the national side in mid-January ‘to take on a Head Coach opportunity’”, Ulster moved to confirm the appointment - although had no timeline on their statement on Monday.

The time frame is understood to refer to a nine-month notice period required by the SRU.

However, the SRU also confirmed current Worcester head coach Carl Hogg had been brought in to share forwards-coaching duties with the outgoing McFarland.

It is anticipated McFarland could be with Ulster sooner rather than later, and that is something the Irish province would want as they look to turn their fortunes around after a disappointing season.

Waiting until midway through the season to get their new coach in place would be far from ideal - as has been proven from recent past experiences.

Ulster also confirmed yesterday they had another coaching announcement to come. That is expected to be the appointment of current player, Jared Payne, as defence coach.

The New Zealander has not played since the British & Irish Lions tour last summer and it is expected he will announce his retirement from playing soon, and then join the existing backroom staff of Dwayne Peel, Aaron Dundon and Niall Malone.

McFarland who enjoyed successful stints as assistant to Pat Lam at Connacht and Gregor Townsend at Glasgow has agreed a three-year deal with Ulster.

He will replace Jono Gibbes who will leave at the end of the current season having been released from his contract a year early.

Comment on his move to Belfast, McFarland said: “I am really excited that I will be taking on the Ulster Head Coach role.

“I know firsthand from my years visiting with Connacht and Glasgow the passion and fervour that makes playing in front of Ulster fans so special.

“It’s a club with a great history and I welcome the challenge of being a part of their future.”

Cunningham added: “Dan was our number one candidate so we’re obviously very happy to have secured his services for the next three years. Dan’s CV is hugely impressive and he commands great respect within the game.

“He enjoyed successful spells with Connacht and Glasgow, and the fact that Gregor brought him into the Scotland set-up speaks volumes for how highly he rates him.

“Our priority in this process was to identify and recruit the best possible candidate first and foremost..

“With the confirmation of Dan’s appointment, we will be announcing at least one further addition to the coaching team in the near future to ensure that we have a strong unit in place in advance of pre-season,” he added.

Shane Logan, Ulster’s Chief Executive added:“I’d like to congratulate Bryn and our Professional Game Board for conducting such a thorough process that has led to this appointment.

“We have worked closely with the IRFU and are very pleased with the outcome.”