Chris Farrell did not need his arm twisted when the chance to move back from France to Ireland was presented to him in the form of a contract offer from Munster, writes Simon Lewis.
Yet life in the Top14 was good for the Belfast-born centre and it needed a reassuring chat from former Munster scrum-half Mike Prendergast to put his mind at ease.
Ten weeks since landing in Limerick for his first pre-season campaign, the 24-year-old is convinced he made the right decision after three seasons in Grenoble. With the club in financial turmoil last season and relegation from the French top flight seemingly inevitable, Farrell knew he would have to leave the alpine club this summer. It was just a question of where to?
“I loved the Top 14, I loved the competition I loved playing week in, week out in front of big crowds and against top players but it was tough decision,” Farrell said of his mindset before he agreed to sign on for Munster last January.
“But as soon as I made it, it was easier throughout the rest of the season, especially when I watched Munster, that just reassured me that it was the right decision. I spoke to (Mike Prendergast) a lot about it and he did reassure me it was a good place.”
Farrell had left his native Ulster after three injury-hit years but moving to France was a gamble that paid off, the centre given the game-time he craved and made the most of his opportunity to showcase the power, pace, and try-scoring instincts that Munster hope he will replicate in red for at least the next two seasons.
Farrell enjoyed a winning Munster debut in the opening-night 34-3 bonus-point victory over Benetton Rugby in Cork last Friday.
Now he is preparing for a Thomond Park bow on Saturday when South Africa’s Cheetahs visit Limerick for an eagerly anticipated Guinness PRO14 round two clash.
“I feel it was a solid enough start but would liked to have had a few more involvements in attack. But it’s just about learning from the players around you and actually being able to read what they are trying to do at times.”
Life is certainly different at Munster, and not just the weather, or the comfort of speaking English once again.
“The changes are massive compared to France in terms of the intensity that things are done around here. It was very relaxed in France compared to what we see here and that’s probably one of the main changes.”
Farrell accepts that coming home was the only option if he wanted to fulfil his ambition of playing Test rugby and he has enjoyed a dialogue with Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Yet he is mindful of not putting the cart before the horse.
“I have to do it in a Munster jersey before I think of moving anywhere in any direction. I contacted (Schmidt) and I met him. I knew he was watching games and he gave me a bit of feedback on games so there was contact but it was my decision to join Munster because it’s a fantastic club. In France, whenever I told somebody I was coming here they were (saying) ‘Oh really, it’s a massive club’, there’s such a buzz in France about Munster, they always have such high thoughts of them as a club.”
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.