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Campbell old boy Farrell keen to get run of games at centre stage for Ireland

 

Blue wall: Chris Farrell aims to find a way past Greig Laidlaw
Blue wall: Chris Farrell aims to find a way past Greig Laidlaw
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

When Chris Farrell last found himself in an Ireland midfield, it was at the start of the most bittersweet of weeks.

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A little under a year ago, he'd won man of the match honours against Wales in Dublin but a knee injury sustained in training when the squad reassembled would keep him out until the final days of 2018.

The County Tyrone man hit the ground running for Munster on his return though, and when Robbie Henshaw sustained a dead leg last week, it was Farrell who was handed the 13 jersey for Saturday's win over Scotland.

After a solid display at Murrayfield, the 26-year-old is keen to make up for lost time even if many will expect Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, or both to be back as Ireland's centres the next time the frontline side take the field together.

"I'd obviously love (a run of starts)," said the man who won an Ulster Schools' Cup with Campbell College.

"That would be fantastic. But there's certainly no guarantee in this game that you'll get another run, especially with the quality we have in there now. With Garry, Robbie, Bundee (Aki), Tom Farrell is now in as well.

"There's real quality there and those guys are coming back off what look like short-term injuries.

"We'll see what happens over the next couple of weeks, but the main thing is as a collective that we get better.

"We'll have a week off, a bit of training towards the end of the week and then hopefully we'll get better leading into Italy (on February 24)."

Having worn 13 in Edinburgh, Farrell - who left his native Ulster for Grenoble in 2014 before returning to Ireland with Munster two summers ago - says he would be plenty capable of moving inside should the opportunity present itself.

"I haven't played 12 in a long time, not since I was in the Top 14 with Grenoble," he said.

"But that's the position where I played all my development rugby for Ulster, pretty much right up until I left and went to France.

"So there's no reason why I can't. I feel like I'd be very comfortable there, and I'd love to give it a go, sure."

Despite only being drafted into the team late in the week, Farrell was still entrusted with a key role in the set-piece move that produced Jacob Stockdale's score, a trademark barrelling carry and quick recycle that allowed Peter O'Mahony to drift across before Johnny Sexton sharply cut back to release the lurking Ulster wing.

In a game where creativity was relatively thin on the ground, it was a turning point.

"I suppose it's a perfect example of one of Joe Schmidt's set-piece moves," reflected Farrell.

"I carried the first phase and we tried to get quick ball, it was actually slowed down more than I would have liked, but it still somehow worked.

"They over-read on Johnny and he just played Jacob coming through the middle.

"So there's massive detail probably on the next phase, where Johnny shows it back inside then Jacob times his run perfectly to come through on the shoulder of the other guy who's inside Johnny as well.

"So that's where the real detail is.

"For me it's just about trying to get over the gainline and get quick ball, and I probably didn't do that as much as I should have."

Meanwhile, Finn Russell insists Scotland will come out fighting against France as they look to get their Guinness Six Nations campaign back on track.

"We have three of the toughest games to come," admitted the former Glasgow fly-half. "These are the situations you love to be in when you're on the back foot and you have to come out fighting. We're going to give it all we've got to finish as high as we can.

"Frustration is the right word after our defeat against Ireland. Silly errors and a few defensive lapses cost us."

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