Munster man Farrell keen for opportunity to build on Edinburgh impression

The 25-year-old was back in a green shirt for the first time in almost a year.

WHILE A CLEAR opportunity to break clear never quite opened up in front of him, Munster man Chris Farrell made a strong return to the Ireland jersey yesterday.

The imposing centre’s performance in the win over Scotland certainly pleased head coach Joe Schmidt, who picked the 25-year-old out for praise post-match.

Farrell wasn’t locked into the starting team until Thursday due to the uncertainty around Robbie Henshaw’s dead leg – that coming after first-choice outside centre Garry Ringrose had been ruled out with a hamstring injury. 

Ireland’s Chris Farrell Farrell was back in green after being absent for almost a year. Inpho / Billy Stickland Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

Farrell looked unfazed to be back on the Test stage, even at short notice. It had been almost a year since his last appearance in green – his Six Nations debut against Wales last year, when he was named man of the match. 

Against Scotland in Edinburgh yesterday, Farrell carried aggressively nine times for a return of 57 metres, while he defended well in the 13 channel and stepped in at first receiver on a handful of occasions.

His communication out the back of ball-carrying pods was strong, while he had an important carry on the first phase of Jacob Stockdale’s excellent first-half try.

That came after Farrell’s superb kick chase of Stockdale’s chip had directly led to Tommy Seymour making an error for Scotland to allow Conor Murray to score Ireland’s opening try.

His subtle and confident influence didn’t give any indication of the uncertainty around Farrell’s starting position earlier in the week.

“That doesn’t change my preparation really,” said Farrell at Murrayfield. ”That’s exactly how I got in for the Argentina game in November [2017].

“We’re so well-drilled in terms of our preparation that nothing changes, I prepare like I’m starting every game right up until the Thursday, and then the mindset changes when you definitely know you’re not in. But it doesn’t change too much.”

The mature Ulster native is now craving another chance to show his quality to Schmidt in this Six Nations, with a visit to Italy to come in two weekends’ time.

Chris Farrell with Greig Laidlaw Farrell carried well for Ireland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Henshaw and Ringrose may well be fit again at that stage and Farrell understands the competition for places will continue to limit his opportunities.

“I’d obviously love that, that would be fantastic,” said Farrell of the prospect of another chance against Italy. “But there’s certainly no guarantee in this game that you’ll get another run, especially with the quality we have in here now.

“With Garry, Robbie, Bundee [Aki], Tom Farrell is now in as well. There’s real quality there and those guys are coming back off what look like short-term injuries.

“We’ll see what happens over the next couple of weeks, but the main thing is, as a collective, that we get better. We’ll have a week off, a bit of training towards the end of next week and then hopefully we’ll get better leading into Italy.”

Farrell – who says he would also be more than happy to play in the 12 shirt, having done so at several stages of his career – was pleased for Munster team-mate Joey Carbery yesterday.

The 23-year-old out-half came off the bench in the first half for Johnny Sexton to produce an intercept pass for Scotland’s only try of the game, but bounced back to create a beautiful score for Keith Earls in the second half.

“It’s probably a great learning experience for him and shows just how resilient he is,” said Farrell. “He’s a massively resilient character in Munster as well.

“I’ve got to know him really well in the last six months down in Limerick and it’s great for him to have bounced back the way he did. Because he managed to get control of things, made a nice little break for Earlsy’s try, and he looked really dangerous in attack.

“He can bring massive confidence into how he reacted to that himself. And us as well as a team, because obviously we feed off him, especially as a centre – when your 10 is playing with confidence and his head up, it’s great to play outside him.” 

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