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Dublin: 2 °C Saturday 17 March, 2018

'It doesn't need to be said what is expected when you wear a 13 jersey with Ireland'

Chris Farrell delivered a magnificent performance on his first Six Nations outing.

Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Updated at 22:00

Sean Farrell reports from Aviva Stadium

THE AFTERNOON TEMPERATURES dipped to shivering lows for Six Nations day on Lansdowne Road, but Chris Farrell was never in danger going off the boil.

On the day of his third cap, the Munster centre delivered a man-of-the-match performance to help Ireland secure a bonus point 37 – 27 win over Wales.

Right from the opening kicks of the game, the 24-year-old placed himself at the heart of Irish efforts, haring after a high, hanging Jacob Stockdale clearance kick to deliver a perfectly-timed thunderous tackle on Leigh Halfpenny.

That was him on the front foot, and he hardly rocked back.

“When you get into the game early, like I did, I had a few involvements within the first maybe 30 seconds, that sort of gives you a bit of confidence when you go well and it gives you a platform to build on.

“You get a feel for what’s in front of you and what way the defence is going.”

More often than not the Welsh defence was bunched in front of him, and Farrell was continually put to work in breaking it down, using some excellent footwork to make full use of his imposing frame and putting Ireland over the gainline time after time.

“I suppose I did feel like I was making yards everytime I got on the ball and that’s probably partly to do with Johnny (Sexton) and the way he controls defences and shows out the back and helps you along.”

Though his performance included the odd missed tackle – always a difficult metric for a 13 in an Andy Farrell defence – there were flashes of his soft hands and even a restart take to ensure positive side of the ledger massively out-weighed the negative.

Stepping in to replace a Lions tourist in the shape of Robbie Henshaw is an inescapable part of the story, yet Farrell seemed like the only man not walking out of Lansdowne Road shocked by the high standards he hit today.

“I wasn’t necessarily surprised. I expected to fit in like that. If I’m in a Six Nations squad, and if Joe is going to select me, I expect to fit in in the same way as anyone else would.

“That’s the expectation that Joe has whether you are second, third or fourth choice, whatever it might be. If you get a chance to be called up you need to fit in the same way anyone else has.”

He added: “I don’t think it needs to be said what is expected when you wear a 13 jersey with Ireland, because of who has been there before and what they’ve done.

“Between Garry (Ringrose), Robbie (Henshaw) and Brian O’Driscoll before me, they’ve all been unbelievable and so there’s a certain expectation. And I know it, because I’ve watched them for the last 10 years or whatever it’s been, and they’ve all done amazing things there.

“So there is a pressure, without a doubt, but for me it was almost like going back to the Fiji game I played in November, and just trying to fit in. Then whatever else goes with that is a bonus again.”

Chris Farrell and Keith Earls celebrate after the game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

As Schmidt mentioned earlier this week, Farrell’s road to performing at this level on the international stage began much further back than November. The Kiwi made sure to keep tabs on the Ulster native while he was an Exile plying his trade with Grenoble.

It’s often easy to consider anything happening outside the provinces as a blind spot for Irish caaches, but that is only the case in terms of selection. A move to the Alps won’t keep you out of range of Schmidt’s work-on bullet points.

“I would have been talking to Joe a good bit the three years in France, I would have had a few phone calls from home and a few messages with clips from matches.

He’d be saying: ‘you could do this better, you could do that better, defensively you could have done this’.

“He was just giving me advice on how to play the game and a few things that he had seen. The very small details are what he prides himself on and he prides his team on, and those kind of things are what have benefitted me.

“I had spoken to (Schmidt) before I had even played a game in France, so I was just thinking he obviously just wants Irish players back in Ireland. I hadn’t played a game so I hadn’t impressed him in any way.


“Then I got to play some games and played well.Then year two: I was playing better and he was still chatting to me, driving me on, gave me goals and then all I wanted to do was, pretty much, come back and play rugby in Ireland.

“It’s been fantastic. Even just to come back and play in Munster, what it is and the history they have, it was such an honour to me.

“And what has come on the back of it is such a bonus.”

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