Aussie connection brings Friend to Connacht

International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Former Aussie Sevens coach Andy Friend is heading to Ireland, and he has former Wallaby David Nucifora to thank for it.

Friend has signed a three-year deal with the irish club, announced overnight, something that wasn’t on his mind at all as he looked for a new gig.

His contract with the Sevens wasn’t renewed after two-and-a-half years with the club, and though an overseas XVs job was on his mind, Ireland was not his first point of call.

Friend visited China, looking into opportunities in a growing market there, before Nucifora, who is now the Ireland Rugby Football Union performance director, picked up the phone.

“I got a call from David, asking whether I had an interest in the position, which I said I did,” he told RUGBY.com.au.

“Then we had a phone hook up with their CEO Willie Ruane and David and that went really well, then I got a call the next morning from the CEO saying he enjoyed the chat and he wondered if I could come over there, fly over, meet with him in person, as well as their board members and a couple of staff and their players.”

The atmosphere and the passion in the area sealed the deal for Friend, who is keen to embrace the tribal nature of the Pro14 competition.

“For them, their team means a hell of a lot, so to have that sort of passion and energy for it (is great),” he said.

“I got a taste of that when I was in London with Harlequins - they're tribal I suppose, like what the Aussies are with AFL.

“Probably don't have it with the union (in Australia), but they've got that real passion for their team.

“To me, that's pretty special and something that needs to be nurtured and encouraged and look forward to getting involved with that.”

Friend will have a few fellow Aussies in his playing list next season, with former Brumby Jarrad Butler in the squad, and pair David Horwitz and Kyle Godwin also linking up with the squad.

Butler has caught Friend’s eye in recent weeks, a standout for the Connacht side.

“I've watched those boys from afar but never worked directly with them,” he said.

“I'm really excited to get over there and work with those guys too.

“ I've seen them play Super - I watched a few games of Jarrad's, with the Connacht stuff when I started talking to them and he's playing really good rugby.

“He's been really impressive over there, so it's exciting to work with him.”

The former Aussie Sevens and Brumbies mentor will have a chance to meet some of his new charges in Australia next month, with three Connacht players part of the Ireland squad.

“It’'ll be good to introduce myself to them and then watch them go around,” he said.

Friend and his wife Kerry will head over to Ireland at the end of June, before he begins his new role in earnest.