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First Ireland hit was a 'shock to the system' admits debutant Chris Farrell


By Michael Sadlier

You can usually easily spot the new caps when they enter the room.

While the more experienced players tend to trudge in to offer some post-match reaction, the new boys are visibly up for the task and usually much more talkative.

And Chris Farrell was no exception as the 24-year-old powerhouse centre was still buzzing from his first exposure to the game at Test level and, as such, was only too eager to share what it felt like to win that first cap.

Quite a journey it has been too, taking him from his native Fivemiletown to his first steps in the professional game with Ulster before reinventing himself in France at Grenoble ahead of this season's return to these shores where he is now earning his crust at Munster.

All that and now a longed-for first cap for Ireland where he made his debut alongside Stuart McCloskey, a former team-mate at club level at Dungannon.

"It was a detour to get here," said Farrell who acquitted himself reasonably well against the Fijians. "I had to go to France and back and it was always my goal to come back and get a chance to play at this level.

"I have that now and hopefully can build on it as one cap is nothing really. I definitely want more (caps) at some stage."

He admitted to almost being overwhelmed by the build-up on the day before then being brought, quite literally, crashing back to terra firma after taking his first hit at Test level.

"It was amazing and I cannot describe the feeling it was when I was walking out to the pitch and the fireworks were going off.

"Even earlier in the hotel I was getting emotional walking out of there and getting on the team bus."

And then that first contact with the opposition? Farrell smiled before wincing at the memory.

"Yes, I think it was getting lined up by Levani Botia at a lineout. It was more difficult than I ever thought it was going to be and it was really a shock to the system. The physicality shook me a few times but I don't shy away from that.

"You can see how they (Fiji) are such physical specimens and that they can just do things that are extra special," said the former Campbell College pupil.

As for his partnership outside McCloskey, the new man felt that they had gone reasonably well together and that having the current Ulster squad member alongside him had been a help.

"I know Stuart quite well, though we never played together at Ulster and we played maybe once at club level," said Farrell.

"We bonded well and had a few nice phases together but we also lost a few balls together," he added before giving an insight into the discussions at half-time when Ireland only led 17-10.

"When we came in at half time there were 11 turnovers against us and that isn't the standard we strive for.

"That is the kind of thing that changes games because if you can't look after the ball that is going to hurt you.

"In the second half it did not really change, we didn't fix that, we came out and lost more balls I don't know what the total was but that will be the main focus come the review."

Though a second cap looks unlikely for Saturday's final autumn Test against Argentina, at least Farrell's first ended with the right result.

"It (winning) makes it extra special," he said. "We had to grind it out and work hard."

And as for his first Irish jersey, that will be going back to Fivemiletown.

"It will go up in family house - the parents deserve that one," he said before exiting the room.

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