Friend points Wallabies to Irish lessons

Andy Friend thinks it'd be "madness" to remove Dave Rennie as Wallabies coach before the World Cup, the long-term mentor instead suggesting fundamental fixes based on his five years in Ireland.

Friend was axed as Brumbies coach in 2011 and replaced as Australia's men's rugby sevens coach after an underwhelming 2018 Commonwealth Games.

But Connacht's director of rugby will leave on his terms next May following a successful stint that peaked when he coached the Galway-based United Rugby Championship outfit into the knockout stages of the European Champions Cup for the first time last season.

The Australian will be in the stands when world No.1 Ireland play world No.8 Wallabies on Saturday (Sunday morning AEDT) in Dublin, with Rennie and his men under the pump after a historic loss to Italy last weekend.

"I really like some of the rugby they've played but it's too hard when you give away possession with so many red penalties, we call them, dumb-arse penalties," Friend told AAP.

"We've had the same at Connacht this year but it can be a massive swing (if they're negated), it's huge.

"Dave's a smart coach. Solve that and you're a different football team.

"It'd be madness to change him now. He's been given a four-year project, well give him his four years."

Instead the coach of 29 years said Rugby Australia could take plenty from Ireland's sustained excellence.

"The centralised model is a very good model," he told AAP of the co-operation between Munster, Ulster, Leinster and his men with the national body.

"Four provinces fiercely competitive but genuinely collaborating. Without a doubt, collectively you achieve more.

"It's not a model where you're told how to play and select like a dictatorship.

"It's about alignment on certain things, pathways, minutes for players and care of players. Outside of that, go for your life."

There remains some pushback to the concept within Australia but Friend said history speaks for itself.

"It'd be ideal and New Zealand have had something similar and are the other team that's been No.1," Friend said.

"South Africa don't do it and England with their private ownership, it's hard to curtail some of the demand they put on players.

"I know they'd love a model like that but won't ever get it."

Friend recruited Australian-born Ireland winger Mack Hansen from Canberra, while he also lured Colby Fainga'a and sevens duo John Porch and Ben O'Donnell to the club.

Down the pecking order at the Brumbies, Hansen has lit up the Test arena to be nominated for World Rugby's breakthrough player of the year.

"It's the most robust system I've ever worked in, our recruitment," Friend said.

"But (Hansen's rise) isn't due to a centralised system.

"Everyone blossoms at different times; it's easy to say now that Australia missed a trick when he left.

"Sometimes they happen to be in your care when they do flourish and sometimes you let them go because you know they need something different."

He also said investment in the Connacht provincial system, dubbed Grassroots to Greenshirts, had helped foster the health of 26 clubs despite Gaelic football's dominance.

Friend said afternoon fixtures had also been effective, rather than night games that proved a turn-off for young families.

"When I was at the Waratahs, I was one of six guys driving a branded car around Sydney all day," he said.

"You need eyes on it and that's what the AFL are doing really well now.

"We need to get people playing, falling in love with it. Then they come and watch and fall in love with their heroes.

"It's not rocket science, but you need funding."

Don't expect Friend, who has also coached in England and Japan, back in Australian rugby anytime soon though.

He and his wife bought a motorhome and will travel around Europe for six months next year before returning to Canberra for Christmas 2023.

"It'll be the first time in many years we're able to be together for Christmas and beyond that I have absolutely nothing planned, which is quite a liberating feeling to be honest," he said.

"I started coaching in 1994 and it's a pretty full-on occupation, so it'll be nice to take a breather."