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Chris Farrell had confidence he could succeed after roundabout route to Six Nations

By Cian Tracey

Chris Farrell's story is one that will give hope to any Irish player who initially fails to make the grade on these shores.

The 24-year-old, from Fivemiletown, hasn't taken the conventional route to the Six Nations stage, and by doing so, he proves that it is possible.

Joe Schmidt deserves his fair share of the credit too, because during Farrell's three years with Grenoble, and particularly in the final months, the Ireland head coach regularly kept in touch and offered feedback on the midfielder's performances in France. Back in November, Farrell showed that he was capable of playing at this level, but on Saturday he hit new heights in what was a stunning man of the match display.

Filling Robbie Henshaw's boots is an unenviable task but Farrell did so, and more.

His crunching tackle on Leigh Halfpenny after just 10 seconds set the tone for an outstanding performance from a man who is essentially Ireland's fourth-choice outside centre.

When he signed for Munster, some unfairly viewed Farrell as a glorified bosh-merchant but he is continuously showing that there is so much more to his game.

Claiming Johnny Sexton's restart after two minutes illustrated his athletic ability, and while he carried powerfully all afternoon, he also defended manfully.

As for the bits that we don't see, it was interesting to note afterwards that Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale both spoke about how good a communicator Farrell is.

The fit-again Garry Ringrose will come back into the equation for Scotland, but right now, Farrell is the man with a firm grip over the number 13 jersey, and rightly so.

It didn't take long for Farrell to show he was ready for the first Six Nations appearance of his career, but the man himself was never in any doubt.

"I wasn't necessarily surprised," said the former Ulster centre who won a Schools' Cup with Campbell College.

"I expected to fit in like that. If I'm in a Six Nations squad, and if Joe (Schmidt) is going to select me I expect to fit in in the same way as anyone else would. That's the expectation that Joe has whether you are second, third or fourth choice, whatever it might be.

"If you get a chance to be called up you need to fit in the same way anyone else has."

While he will be hoping that there is plenty more to come between now and the end of the season both with Ireland and Munster, Farrell's story so far is one of faith and hard work rewarded.

An injury-plagued spell early in his Ulster career stunted his progress in Belfast, and a glut of centres at Kingspan Stadium meant it was time to move on in 2014.

He backed his talent and made the unusual move to Grenoble where he worked with former Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman.

"I had spoken to Joe before I had even played a game in France, so I was just thinking that he obviously just wants Irish players back in Ireland," explained the man who played youth rugby at Clogher Valley.

"He was just giving me advice on how to play the game and a few things that he had seen. The very small details are what he prides himself and his team on, and those are the kind of things are that have benefitted me."

Belfast Telegraph


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