Rugby

On this day in 2005: Andy Farrell switches codes with Saracens

The former Wigan rugby league star, and future Grand Slam-winning Ireland union coach, joined Sarries on March 23, 2005.

Andy Farrell, right, shakes hands with England head coach Andy Robinson after signing for Saracens in 2005
Andy Farrell, right, shakes hands with England head coach Andy Robinson after signing for Saracens in 2005 Andy Farrell, right, shakes hands with England head coach Andy Robinson after signing for Saracens in 2005 (Chris Radburn/PA)

Great Britain rugby league captain Andy Farrell switched codes to union and signed for Saracens on this day 19 years ago.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) confirmed Farrell’s three-year contract with Sarries on March 23, 2005.

Current Ireland head coach Farrell had enjoyed 13 heavily-decorated years at Wigan, winning 34 caps for Great Britain and 11 for England.

Former Great Britain rugby league captain Andy Farrell makes his much delayed rugby union debut for Saracens
Former Great Britain rugby league captain Andy Farrell makes his much delayed rugby union debut for Saracens Former Great Britain rugby league captain Andy Farrell makes his much delayed rugby union debut for Saracens (Chris Young/PA)

RFU chief executive Francis Baron said: “Andrew is an outstanding player who has been a superb ambassador for rugby league on and off the field and we believe that he will do the same in rugby union.

“Wigan and Saracens have been very co-operative and I’d like to thank them for all their help over the last few weeks.”

A string of injuries delayed Farrell’s Saracens debut until 2006 but he went on to make his England bow in the Six Nations the following year.

Injuries continued to hamper Farrell at every turn and he only managed eight caps, although he did go to the 2007 World Cup where defending champions England were beaten finalists.

Andy Farrell in action for England
Andy Farrell in action for England Andy Farrell in action for England (Andrew Parsons/PA)

A successful coaching career followed, with Farrell impressing with Saracens before joining England’s backroom staff in 2012.

Farrell helped the British and Irish Lions to a series win in Australia in 2013 but lost his England job after the 2015 World Cup, where head coach Stuart Lancaster’s side became the worst-performing hosts in tournament history.

The 48-year-old became Ireland defence coach in 2016.

He succeeded Joe Schmidt as head coach following the 2019 World Cup and has led Ireland to back-to-back Six Nations titles, including a Grand Slam in 2023.