The Australian coach talks teething problems, cleaning toilets and scoffing crisps

Downtime with… Connacht head coach Andy Friend

Andy Friend joined Connacht in 2018 having coached at the top of the game since the dawn of professionalism, with extensive experience in his native Australia, England and Japan.

He has earned praise as a steady hand at the province, and earlier this year former Ireland centre Gordon D’Arcy wrote in The Irish Times that in the future “when the Irish coaching job comes up, I believe the IRFU would be amiss if they didn’t take a drive to Galway and have a conversation with Andy Friend”.

Here Connacht head coach Andy Friend gives us an insight into his life…

Do you have any nicknames? 

I get called ‘Friendy’ by most people. My wife, Kerri, calls me ‘Friendly’ and our head of operations at Connacht, Tim Allnutt, calls me ‘Bruce’. But they are the only three nicknames I’ve ever had.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

I used to clean toilets to help get myself through uni. There are definitely better ways to make a living!

Who’s the funniest person you know in rugby? 

Our current video analyst at Connacht Rugby, Simon Kavanagh, is a very funny guy. He has a wonderful way of creating light out of most situations and bringing a smile and some laughter to those around him.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen on the pitch? 

It would have to be the time when James ‘Chucky’ Stannard had his front tooth knocked out at Twickenham playing for Australia Sevens. After play had stopped, he found the tooth and asked the referee at the time, Craig Joubert, to pop it in his pocket for him to hold.

Joubs didn’t want to touch it, so I had to run onto the pitch and grab it for him. Unbeknownst to most people – including Craig – it was a false tooth, but it still gave me a good giggle.

Most embarrassing moment in rugby? 

I always get embarrassed whenever I forget people’s names, if I have met them before.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

I’d love to be able to inject belief and confidence into those players who doubt their own ability. I’ve seen so much wasted talent over my time in the game, and a lack of ‘self-confidence’ is usually the main ingredient that was missing.

Who would be your dream three dinner party guests? 

First, I’d choose Nelson Mandela because he inspired me growing up and he had a great story to tell.

Next would be Ricky Gervais because I reckon a good dinner party needs laughter and this bloke is one of the funniest people I have seen.

And lastly I’d choose my wife. We share everything, so it would be great for her to be there to enjoy the evening.

What really winds you up? 

I don’t like dishonesty and a lack of respect shown to other people and/or property.

If you could be any other coach or player for a day, who would you be?

It’s a totally different sport but I would be Tom Brady for a day. I think he would have to be close to the greatest sportsperson that’s ever lived. His achievements are outstanding both on and off the field, so spending a day in his shoes would be quite special.

What’s the biggest waste of money you’ve splurged on?

I bought an investment property once for $500,000 (around £360k), which ended up being an absolute flop! It ended up costing me over $200,000 (around £144k) by the time I sold the property on.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

I do enjoy a decent packet of salted potato crisps. If a pack gets opened near me, they have little chance of surviving beyond 15 minutes!

Apart from Tom Brady’s career in American Football, has anything from any other sport inspired you? 

I watch a lot of different sports, so any victory against the odds always inspires me.

Do you have any superstitions on a match day? 

I’m naturally quite superstitious, so I try really hard to change things up within my routine in order to avoid thinking that a certain behaviour or action was responsible for a certain event happening.

How would you like to be remembered after your time in rugby? 

I’d like others to think that I treated people fairly, honestly and with respect.

This article originally appeared in Rugby World’s October 2021 edition.

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