Ulster’s rugby troubles may have been transformed into nothing more than challenges and opportunities in the length of time it took to sign a name on a contract after they confirmed yesterday that they have recruited Dan McFarland from Scotland’s rugby management team.

The province that has long been associated with intractable problems, has not had its difficulties to seek rugby-wise in recent times with leading players embroiled in court-room dramas that have generated huge controversy.

However, the man appointed as their head coach is an ardent believer in using positive vocabulary wherever possible and he was true to form yesterday as he commented on the move, after Ulster announced that he has agreed a three-year deal with them, saying: “I am really excited that I will be taking on the Ulster Head Coach role. 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.”

The Englishman made his name as a forwards coach in Ireland after moving on to the backroom staff at Connacht following six years as a player there and he was promoted to assistant coach four years later, remaining there until he joined Glasgow Warriors after their lone major success when they won the Pro12 title in 2015. 

He subsequently moved with head coach Gregor Townsend when he took charge of the national team last year, but his knowledge of Irish rugby, which also saw him hold head coach positions with Emerging Ireland and Ireland Wolfhounds while at Connacht, played a significant part in him being targeted by Ulster, as their operations director Bryn Cunningham made clear.

“Dan was our number one candidate so we’re obviously very happy to have secured his services for the next three years. Dan’s cv is hugely impressive and he commands great respect within the game,” said Cunningham.

“He enjoyed successful spells with Connacht and Glasgow, and the fact that Gregor brought him into the Scotland set-up speaks volumes for how highly he rates him. Our priority in this process was to identify and recruit the best possible candidate first and foremost. With the confirmation of Dan’s appointment, we will be announcing at least one further addition to the coaching team in the near future to ensure that we have a strong unit in place in advance of pre-season.”

That process got underway last month when it emerged that after a tumultuous few months at Ulster, former All Black Jono Gibbes was standing down as their head coach for what were initially described as ‘family reasons’ before it was revealed that he would be taking charge at Waikato Chiefs on his return to New Zealand. There was room for confusion yesterday, too, with Ulster’s statement simply making reference to McFarland joining them ‘next season’, offering the impression that he is moving in time for it getting underway.

By contrast, the Scottish Rugby Union announced its intention to hold McFarland to notice conditions that will keep him in his current post as Scotland’s assistant coach until next year, their spokesman stating that: “Scotland Assistant coach Dan McFarland will leave the national team set-up mid-January to take on a head coach opportunity. McFarland, who joined the Scotland coaching team from Glasgow Warriors in 2017, will remain in post for a nine-month notice period as the recruitment process for his replacement gets underway.”

At best that would suggest that McFarland’s current employers are adopting a negotiating position, seeking compensation for his services, however they simultaneously announced that cover is in place, saying that: “Former Scotland back-row and current Worcester Warriors head coach, Carl Hogg, has been added to the national team coaching set-up on an interim basis. He will share forwards-coaching duties with McFarland on the 2018 Summer Tour to Canada, USA and Argentina.”

It was announced in February that after five years at Worcester Warriors, Hogg would be leaving the English Premiership club at the end of this season and while the nephew of former Scotland head coach Jim Telfer is a playing contemporary of fellow Borderer Townsend, indications are it is by no means a formality that he will replace McFarland in the longer term.