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'There is a huge amount of belief in the squad' - Farrell confident Munster can kick on in URC

The province are hoping a number of young players can step up again this season.

Munster centre Chris Farrell.
Munster centre Chris Farrell.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A 2020/21 SEASON which provided plenty of promise once again ended with something of a whimper for Munster, Johann van Graan’s team falling to defeat in the Pro14 final with a surprisingly tame performance against Leinster.

And so, the wait goes on, with Munster still looking to bridge the gap to their last trophy success in 2011. This year, that challenge is expected to be even more difficult, with South African sides the Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Lions entering the mix in the United Rugby Championship.

“In regard to doing things differently I don’t think there’s anything stand-out that we need to do differently,” says Munster centre Chris Farrell.

“We’ve been so close. We got to a final (last season), we lost in a final. We lost to Toulouse who went on to win the Champions Cup. We had a really positive season. 

We had a great away record, (only) losing two games away from home. We need a few things to click in those games. We need to go into those games with a belief we’ve garnered for last season that we can compete whenever we are on form with all the best teams. When we are in form I think we can beat anyone. 

“There is a huge amount of belief in the squad, a huge amount. Personally I have a huge amount of belief that we are consistently competing at the top level and are really close to winning something. 

“I’m not just saying that. I genuinely do believe it. I think that sentiment is shared in our squad. That’s across the board.”

If Munster are to take that next step this season, they’ll do it with a new-look squad. Veteran forwards Billy Holland and CJ Stander are gone, as are James Cronin and JJ Hanrahan, but the return of homegrown hero Simon Zebo and the injury-plagued RG Snyman should an extra splash of quality to a youthful looking team.

He brings a real freshness to things in and around changing rooms. He’s brilliant to have around,” Farrell says of Zebo.

He’s always smiling, he’s just one of those people who loves what he does. It’s just great to see someone as experienced as him enjoy his rugby the way he does. A lot of the young fellas are really, really serious and to see someone like Zeebs have fun, that can give them a different perspective to the way we train and play.

“RG obviously will be huge for us when we get him back. He’s looking in great shape and hopefully that won’t be too far away. 

“Those guys are going to be huge but there’s also a lot of young players that are inexperienced that can add an awful lot. 

“We saw it last year, they brought a huge amount of energy to our squad – Gavin Coombes, Craig Casey, Shane Daly – lads who really stepped up when they got their opportunities. 

“They now know if they are in form they will get a shot and get opportunities. That comes from a coaching ticket who have confidence in young players to perform when they are in form. Those guys will add a huge amount as well. 

“I think we have a lot of other fellas pushing through from the academy who all got senior contracts last year, equally as talented as the lads we’ve seen come though the last couple of years, that blend of experience and competitive young fellas who want to put their hands up will be important this season.”

A number of those young Munster players have also quickly climbed the ladder to Andy Farrell’s squad too, with Casey, Coombes and Daly all coming into the new season as Ireland internationals.

“They’ll benefit a lot from that, they’ll have a huge amount of belief going into pre-season this year that they’re internationals,” Farrell continues.

chris-farrell-is-tackled-by-cheslin-kolbe Farrell featured 11 times for Munster last season. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“They’ve seen what it takes to train at international level every day for a few weeks there and Fineen Wycherley as well, it would be remiss not to mention him because these guys have become real leaders. They’re fearless.

“The young fellahs coming out of academies and schools these days, they expect to be involved, they’re fearless but they also know what it takes to compete at that level, day in and day out and have a great head on their shoulders, most of them.

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“I expect those lads to really get going and they’re leaders in our squad now. 

“We’ve got a young squad compared to what we had last year, we lost quite a few significant members in our squad last year in Billy Holland, JJ Hanrahan and James Cronin, lads who were leaders, who knew what it was about, playing for Munster and these lads have taken on those roles seamlessly.

“They had been doing it last year as well while those lads were there so they’re well prepared.”

Farrell is expected to miss Munster’s opening URC fixture against the Sharks next Saturday with an abdominal injury, but the 28-year-old is hoping to be back out on the pitch sooner rather than later.

“The last thing I want to do is go into the start of what’s going to be a huge season for us having to manage my load in training and games so we have decided to nip it in the bud as best possible at the start of the season.

“It feels pretty good now. It’s just a case of getting more volume into my legs and getting integrated back into rugby.” 

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey discuss Ireland’s World Cup qualification campaign, the dressing-room debacle which overshadowed the interpros, and where Irish women’s rugby goes from here.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ciarán Kennedy

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