Getting to know: Andy Friend

Will Thompson
09 July 2018

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Connacht’s new head coach Andy Friend will hope to use his experience at the highest level of both international and club rugby as he prepares to take over the Irish province.

Andy Friend, Connacht

The 49-year-old takes the reigns on a three-year contract at the Sportsground following the departure of Kieran Keane.

Connacht finished sixth in Conference A with only seven wins in 2017-18 but with the pedigree that Friend brings, they will be hoping to return to the title-winning form that saw them crowned champions in 2016.


Coaching for 23 years, Friend has been a part of Australian, English and Japanese set-ups throughout his career.

The Australian played for provincial side ATC Kookaburras at full-back but it was on the touchline that he would make his mark.

Joining the Australian Institute of Sport rugby programme in 1995, his first role came at the New South Wales Waratahs before he worked as a skills coach under Eddie Jones at the Brumbies.

He linked up with Jones again in 2003 to help Australia to a World Cup final and would have been on the winning side had it not been for a certain Jonny Wilkinson.

Friend also guided the Australian under-21 team to the final of the World Championships in 2005 and lost out on the trophy by just four points to South Africa.

That summer, Friend was announced as the head coach at Harlequins to work under director of rugby Dean Richards, which saw Harlequins breeze through National Division One to retain their Premiership status.

Following his three-year stint in English rugby, Friend returned to the Brumbies as head coach before two years apiece at Japanese sides Canon Eagles and Suntory Sungoliath widened his understanding of global rugby.

A change of format

In 2016, Friend opted to go for a different direction, swapping fifteens for sevens to become head coach of Australia.

With his expansive knowledge of southern hemisphere rugby, Friend brought a revival to the Aussie sevens team.

He led them to a first tournament victory in five years at the Oktoberfest Sevens in Munich last season before taking them to their first World Series tournament victory in six years when they won on home soil at the Sydney 7s in January.

Although Friend didn’t get the chance to guide his Australian squad in this summer’s Rugby World Cup Sevens, he will bring the fluid and fast-paced style to Connacht’s team next season.

Riding the Irish wave

After a stunning season for Irish rugby, during which the national side secured a Grand Slam Six Nations title and an impressive series victory down under, Friend will aim to build on that positive spirit to help Connacht.

He said: “Irish rugby is doing really well and to me, it’s a nation going forward.

“They are a centralised system and are very open in sharing in the way they want to play their game, and what the requirements are of the players.

“Leinster had 18 players on tour (with Ireland), so there’s a massive difference in the player depth but Connacht won the league two years ago, so it’s been proven that one of the smaller clubs can win it.

“For me, it’s about putting the belief back in that group and running a really smart program that keeps your best players on the team for as long as possible.

“Connacht is a proud province with huge potential to build on the success of recent seasons.”

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