Taking up the reigns as Jono Gibbes successor, the former Scotland and Glasgow Warriors assistant has committed his next three years to the Ulstermen.
But with a notice period until January 2019 from his position at Scotland leaving him temporarily unable to take up the post at Ulster – Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby will lead in the short-term.
Playing the waiting game
It’s an indication of the regard with which Ulster hold McFarland that they were willing to wait until January to get their man.
Of course that is certainly helped when they can call on the services of as experienced a coach as Easterby in the meantime.
The former Ireland flanker has previous experience coaching in the Guinness PRO14 with the Scarlets and should be more than able to hold the fort in the interim.
Despite the notice period Operations Director Bryn Cunningham said McFarland was Ulster’s number one candidate for the role and the former Connacht, Emerging Ireland and Ireland Wolfhounds coach is someone who commands great respect within rugby circles.
After calling time on a successful career at Stade Français and Connacht, the Oxfordshire-born prop turned his talents to coaching, developing the forwards before becoming assistant in Galway, working alongside Michael Bradley, Eric Elwood and Pat Lam.
Making the switch to Guinness PRO14 rivals Glasgow Warriors in 2015 – McFarland linked up with Gregor Townsend to lead the Scottish side to a fifth consecutive semi-final later that year.
Following boss Townsend to Scotland, McFarland helped transform the side’s Six Nations fortunes finishing fourth in 2017, before helping mastermind a third-place finish including inflicting the Scots’ biggest defeat over England in the Six Nations era.
Change of fortunes
Without a trophy since 2006, Ulster narrowly missed out on the 2017/18 Finals Series after finishing six points behind Edinburgh in Conference B of the final Guinness PRO14 standings.
McFarland and Easterby will be tasked with resurrecting Ulster’s fortunes, both domestically and on the European stage with Champions Cup rugby also to contend with thanks to a play-off win over the Ospreys.
When taking the job, the 46-year-old McFarland said he was eager to take up the mantle at the historic Ulster side.
He said: “I know first-hand 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.”
In McFarland’s first head coaching job, the former Connacht player will be keen to repay the patience and belief shown by his employers.