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Dublin: 2°C Thursday 26 November 2020

Connacht, Tom Farrell intent on getting back into a rhythm against Zebre

The centre suffered an untimely shoulder injury that sidelined him before sport’s shutdown in March. But he is fit and ready to fire on all cylinders.

EVEN ACCOUNTING FOR the immense quality in the names chasing Ireland’s 12 and 13 jerseys, in 2018 and 2019 Connacht’s Tom Farrell was banging loudly on the door.

He formed a devastating partnership with Bundee Aki in the western province’s midfield, providing a foil for the international’s all-action style with his own powerful, abrasive approach on both sides of the ball and a handy knack of getting his hands out of tackles to invite team-mates through gaps.

tom-farrell Source: Connacht Rugby/INPHO

He was brought into Joe Schmidt’s Six Nations squad in 2019, but the past year has been anything but fluid for the Dubliner. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of his try away to Toulouse and also a fractured scapula.

It was an injury he thought would keep him out for six weeks. But a combination of the pandemic and an underlying shoulder issue left him sidelined from November to August.

“The scapula never really healed because of an ongoing injury that was already there,” Farrell said this week.

tom-farrell-looks-on-late-in-the-game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I tried to come back for the Montpellier game (January) and I just knew it wasn’t right. In one training session I got a bang on it and I knew there and then I’d need an operation on it.

“In hindsight I did need the extra Covid period. You’re given a recovery period, but it doesn’t always go to plan. That was the case with mine. I needed that extra few months over lockdown.”

Plans, as far as rugby players’ hopes of full fitness go, are routinely torn to shreds. 

Covid-19 postponements along with a dead leg have again hampered Farrell’s attempt return to a playing rhythm this season. Andy Friend used him off the bench during last week’s loss to Scarlets, but he is back in the starting 13 shirt today as Connacht take on Zebre in Parma (kick-off 14.30).

With a little luck, both from a public health perspective and the individual player, the 27-year-old will find his week-to-week playing rhythm soon as Connacht embark on a long block of fixtures that will take them right up to the Six Nations window.

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“I’ve been in an out and just want some consistency, that’s when I feel I play my best. I feel I haven’t really had a good shot at it. I need to get into a rhythm, into a groove.

angus-obrien-with-tom-farrell-after-the-game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Hopefully best foot forward in the next few weeks and I’ll get into those games, get a string of games under my belt. When I was playing my best rugby I was in the team consistently.”

Farrell is not alone in feeling frustration around the Sportsground and his work to escape injury pales in comparison to Sean O’Brien, who starts his first match since December 2018 today. As a whole, Connacht’s season has been more stop-start than the other provinces. Last weekend, the Westerners returned to regularly scheduled matches after a three-week break. But they were unable to pick up where they left off against Scarlets. It was their second loss in four and the pair of defeats are the only Ls on the record of the four Irish teams through 21 matches in this campaign.

With their postponed match against Benetton set for early December (a weekend that had been left free) the western province will be intent on building momentum towards the return of the Heineken Cup. And whatever doors players like Farrell can rap their knuckles on.

“We’ve 13 or 14 games straight so you don’t really have time to dwell on mishaps or feeling sorry for ourselves,” says the centre.

Zebre: Junior Laloifi, Giovanni D’Onofrio, Giulio Bisegni (Capt), Tommaso Boni, Gabriele Di Giulio, Antonio Rizzi, Joshua Renton, Andrea Lovotti, Marco Manfredi, Eduardo Bello, Leonard Krumov, Mick Kearney, Lorenzo Masselli, Renato Giammarioli, David Sisi.

ReplacementsOliviero Fabiani, Alexandru Tarus, Matteo Nocera, Massimo Ceciliani, Nicolò Casilio,Paolo Pescetto, Michelangelo Biondelli.

Connacht: John Porch, Sammy Arnold, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Alex Wootton, Jack Carty, Colm Reilly, Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Jack Aungier, Eoghan Masterson, Gavin Thornbury, Sean O’Brien, Sean Masterson, Jarrad Butler (Capt).

Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Paddy McAllister, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Abraham Papali’i, Stephen Kerins, Conor Fitzgerald, Peter Sullivan.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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