Munster and Ireland centre Chris Farrell would have regarded the departure of Joe Schmidt as Ireland coach as a disaster for the game in this country — were it not for the fact that the New Zealander is to be replaced by his namesake Andy Farrell.
Chris Farrell looked set for a lengthy spell in Schmidt’s plans after a man of the match performance against Wales last February, before sustaining the knee injury that brought about an 8 and a half month interruption to his burgeoning career. And he is obviously disappointed that the New Zealander will be departing after the World Cup.
“It’s sad because he has been unbelievable for the country. The culture he has installed makes me believe we will be successful under Andy Farrell and whoever comes in there. It’s a player-driven culture and everything Joe does makes me believe that is going to continue.”
As for the prospect of working under Andy Farrell, Chris enthused: “I look forward to it massively, massively. He’s a massively inspiring character. He has so much charisma that you really want to work for him. He was a legend playing Rugby League and he still has that dog in him.”
With the focus on the comings and goings at international level, the return of several big names to the Munster set-up at the weekend may have been glossed over.
Chris Farrell was one of those and he is delighted to report a clean bill of health after helping the side to victory over Zebre: “It’s good to have Sunday’s game under my belt even though you wouldn’t have seen from watching on television that the surface was like quicksand. But I had no fears about the knee and
The injury on Ireland duty that blighted his progress appeared at first to be totally innocuous.
“We were preparing for the Scotland game and I just went to change direction in defence. I felt something give way and I was in pain for about five seconds. As soon as doctors came over, I was able to sprint and run and jump and do everything and they were saying, you’ll be good to go.”
That was far from the case. The ACL joint was badly damaged and it soon became clear he would be sidelined for a long period. But Farrell went about his recovery with typical enthusiasm: “I tried to stay involved here as much as I could, to help out with defensive previews and have a look at teams we were facing. I went back to finishing off my degree in sports science at the University of Ulster. I had hoped to get back before the European games in October but it became clear that wasn’t going to happen.”
Now his return for Munster comes immediately before a string of crucial matches in the PRO14 and European Cup.
“It’s just so busy with massive games now, massive games during Christmas and straight again after that the European Cup and we’re in a really good position on all fronts so it’s a good time to be coming back.
“However, before thinking ahead to where I was, I need to get back doing the best I can do in the red of Munster. The only things I can control are playing well for Munster every time I get the chance.
“You never know when you’re going to get that chance here because it is so competitive. There are lads who are playing real quality rugby every week so I need to take my chance every time I get it with Munster.”