“I’m proud and privileged to be asked to take over after such a brilliant coach like Joe,” says Andy Farrell. Photo: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

DUBLIN – Andy Farrell has insisted he had “no doubts whatsoever” when asked to succeed Joe Schmidt as head coach of Ireland.

The former England dual code international will be promoted from his role as Schmidt’s deputy when the New Zealander stands down after this year’s World Cup in Japan.

Farrell, 43, joined the Ireland set-up in 2016 after a four-year spell as a member of England’s backroom staff came to an end following the team’s miserable first-round exit on home soil at the 2015 World Cup.

Schmidt has led Ireland to a Six Nations Grand Slam, three Six Nations Championship titles and the country’s first two wins in history over back-to-back world champions New Zealand.

Farrell, asked on Friday if following Schmidt would be the biggest challenge of his coaching career, replied: “Yes, 100 percent. It’s something I’ve been working towards, something I’m up for and excited about at the same time.

“I’m proud and privileged to be asked to take over after such a brilliant coach like Joe. Fortunately enough as well, I get a bit of time to keep on learning in the meantime.”

Farrell’s promotion was confirmed in November when Schmidt announced he would be standing down after the World Cup.

An outstanding rugby league player who later won England caps in union as well, Farrell launched his coaching career at former club Saracens.

While his time with England coach Stuart Lancaster ended in World Cup disappointment, the 43-year-old Farrell believes his time under Schmidt means he had no qualms about succeeding his current boss.

“Absolutely no doubts whatsoever, it was a very easy decision,” said Farrell, whose son Owen, the England flyhalf, helped shatter dreams of another Irish Grand Slam this season when the Red Roses won 32-20 in Dublin earlier this season. 

“Of course I have become a better coach under Joe, 100 percent. You’re learning all the time, aren’t you? No matter who you’re working with.

“What you get when you’re in our environment is you get to share ideas, and we tend to give quite a lot of feedback to each other.”

Lancaster, like Farrell, has revived his reputation in Ireland as the coach of European club champions Leinster.

There have been suggestions that Lancaster could rejoin his old England colleague as a member of the new Ireland coaching set-up, but a coy Farrell said: “There’s planning that has to go on behind the scenes.

“Honestly, I’m unbelievably conscious of making sure nothing gets in the way of the day job. Things are petering away, but there’s not too much wrong with the Irish set-up at this moment in time.”

Ireland, despite their defeat by England, are not yet out of Six Nations title contention, and will face Italy in Rome next weekend on the back of last week’s 22-13 win away to Scotland at Murrayfield.

Farrell said Johnny Sexton was expected to be fit for the Stadio Olimpico match following a head injury scare.

“Johnny is fine, he trained fully and he will be ready to go,” said Farrell.