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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

Ireland's Chris Farrell reaping the rewards from his 'shot in the dark'

The Munster centre made his World Cup debut as a first-half substitute in Sunday’s victory over Scotland.

chris-farrell Ireland centre Chris Farrell pictured at the Yumeria Sports Grounds, Iwata, Shizuoka, Japan. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

CHRIS FARRELL GOT his first taste of Rugby World Cup action much sooner than he expected.

When it came his way, the Ireland centre made his mark.

Farrell, having replaced the injured Bundee Aki in the 21st minute, contributed positively to Ireland’s defeat of Scotland on Sunday. A delightful no-look offload to Luke McGrath was the feather in his eighth international cap.

“There wasn’t much thought put into it, to be honest,” he says. “I saw the chip space and then Jack [Carty] just put the little chip-kick through and found the space, despite the pressure that he was under.

“Fortunately it sat up quite nicely for me and Lukie ran a nice line. Looking back at it, maybe I could have stepped on the toe for Jacob [Stockdale] to go down the wing but Lukie was there in space so it worked out well.”

Farrell played his part to help Ireland make an encouraging start to their World Cup bid in Yokohama, the 26-year-old having been summoned from the bench by head coach Joe Schmidt after Aki sustained a knock to the head.

He says: “When you’re on the bench you think, ‘it’ll be the second half before I get a chance to have an impact in the game’. Obviously it was unfortunate for Bundee, he picked up a knock and had to go off. But it was unbelievable, the amount of support we had there.

“To see Japanese nationals with the green colour on during our game against Scotland is outstanding, and the noise they made for us during the game — and after the game when we went to thank them in the middle of the pitch — was exciting.”

Farrell’s involvement in a tournament that represents the pinnacle of international rugby is further vindication of his decision to leave his native Ulster for Grenoble in 2014. 

He was signed by Munster after impressing during a three-year spell in France. Against Fiji in November 2017, shortly after returning to Irish soil, he earned an Ireland debut that had seemed unlikely for so long.

chris-farrell Farrell is part of a 12-strong Munster contingent in Ireland's World Cup squad. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I was only out of the academy in Ulster,” he recalls. “I was 21 and leaving the country at that stage, having not really made a massive mark in the provincial game or anything. It was a shot in the dark and I said I’d have a crack at it.

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“It was a good opportunity to play on a stage against top internationals, but I thought the international thing was probably gone unless things went really, really well. Fortunately they probably did — things worked out quite well.”

He adds: “Coming back to Ireland I’ve improved, mostly at the basics. In France, they might not put so much emphasis on the basics. Coming back, you just realise how important those things are. In these high-pressure games, the basics really to come to the fore.

“You’ve got to look after the ball, you’ve got to do the simple things well. The best teams tend to do all those things well and have a few little intricacies on top of that. So if you can build the game on that, I think you become a good team.”

On Saturday (8.15am Irish time), Farrell will hope to receive another chance to stake a claim in Ireland’s midfield when the Pool A campaign resumes against hosts Japan, who kicked the tournament off with a 30-10 win against Russia.

chris-farrell-takes-on-finn-russell Farrell takes on Scotland's Finn Russell. Source: Craig Mercer/INPHO

“For us, it’s massively exciting this weekend because we’re going to play the home nation in a massive tournament like the Rugby World Cup. It’s going to be to be huge.

“Their support is going to be massive, the energy they will feed off from the crowd is going to be huge, but hopefully we can feed off that as well.

“It’s going to be an unbelievable event for us and them. We feel like this is just another step. We had a good start at the weekend but it was just a start and we’ve got a long way to go.” 

– With additional reporting from Murray Kinsella in Japan

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Paul Dollery

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