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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 14 August, 2020

Imposing centre Farrell says Munster's attack 'really needs to kick on'

The 26-year-old feels his team can get more from him when they have the ball.

ONLY GLASGOW AND Leinster have scored more tries than Munster in the Guinness Pro14 this season, but the Champions Cup stats possibly tell a truer story about the southern province’s attack.

In the European competition, Exeter, Cardiff Blues, Leinster, Montpellier, Racing 92, Saracens, Scarlets, Toulouse and Ulster – several of whom didn’t even get to the semi-finals – all scored more tries than Munster.

There is more than try-scoring to winning games in elite rugby but it has been clear to most people watching on that Munster’s attack needs to get better.

Chris Farrell and Jean Kleyn dejected after the game Farrell and Munster were left disappointed in their European semi-final. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Outside centre Chris Farrell, perhaps the province’s best performer in the semi-final defeat to Saracens, agrees. 

Ahead of Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 quarter-final against Benetton at Thomond Park, the 26-year-old Ireland international stressed that this is the major area of Munster’s game that needs growth.

News that Johann van Graan is looking for a new attack coach must have been music to Farrell’s ears, given that he believes Munster must improve.

“It’s the last aspect of our game that really needs to kick on and really needs a little bit of work because everything else is so good,” says Farrell.

“Our defence, in general, has been the best in the competition this season and our set-piece is working really well.

“So if we can change our attack a slight bit, just to get a little bit more out of it and attack space in the right areas, more so than what we have been doing all season, then we will definitely be a lot better.”

The former Ulster and Grenoble midfielder is an imposing figure at 6ft 4ins and 110kg, with his powerful ball-carrying and catch-pass skills standing out in the best passages of Munster attack in recent times.

But Farrell, who is in his second season in Limerick, believes that Munster can still get more out of him in attack.

“I certainly try and play to my strengths. That is the power game and having ball-in-hand and carrying.

Bundee Aki and Tom Daly tackle Chris Farrell Farrell makes a carry against Connacht last weekend. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“But I think we can do it more than we are at the minute. Even in terms of using me as a distributor or as someone just to suck in defences because, eventually, teams will realise that I may be used to get momentum and they will start to see that and adjust their defences.

“So, look, we can definitely find space outside of me or behind me – whatever way we can by manipulating defences by using me in different ways.”

While there is little chance of Munster altering how they attack over the closing weeks of this season beyond the usual subtle tactical tweaks that occur from game to game, Farrell is hopeful that the returns of Joey Carbery and Keith Earls from injury can make a difference.

The out-half and wing missed the European semi-final defeat to Saracens but could be fit to face Benetton on Saturday in Thomond Park.

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“It’s late in the season to be revolutionising your attack but there are small things that we can do between now and hopefully beyond this week, if we get beyond this week, which is massive,” says Farrell.

“With Joey back and Keith back and Conor Murray back, these guys are massive in terms of zipping balls to you and getting balls to you earlier, so that you have a few more split seconds of extra time to do things and see space.”

Clearly, van Graan and assistant Felix Jones, who is the backline and attack coach, are the key influences on how Munster approach their attack but Farrell says he and his team-mates need to step up too.

“As a group, the players take a lot of responsibility. We are very player-driven. Me and Tyler [Bleyendaal] and the boys like JJ [Hanrahan] will sit down and look at things we did at the weekend and be like ‘Why aren’t we doing this here?’

“More so than going to the coaches, I think we have a mindset of figuring it out ourselves. Maybe that is something we need to look at.

Chris Farrell arrives Farrell has become a key figure for Munster. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“We do obviously bring it to the coaches but there are ways we can do it ourselves as well.”

While there have been frustrations around Munster’s attack, Farrell remains confident in other aspects of the team’s game and hopes they can now finish out this season with silverware in the Pro14.

He has returned to the Ireland fold this season too, having recovered from a long-term ACL injury, and has relished working more with Joe Schmidt and key players like Johnny Sexton.

Farrell is keen for the standards that prevail in Ireland camp can filter down to Munster’s training.

“For me, Joe has been one of the best coaches at seeing general space, general attack flow and getting the best out of every player, whether it be forwards, backs, centres, wingers,” says Farrell.

“Working balls towards that space and not even just Joe, but Johnny Sexton, that environment is phenomenal.

“He expects so much off everyone else and he directs everybody else in the way that he wants to find space. It has benefitted me for sure.

“Us, as a province, we need to bring that into our training more so than we have done. I suppose that is the next phase for us.”

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Murray Kinsella

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