Wednesday 21 August 2019

Chris Farrell: There is definitely more we can be doing in attack

Chris Farrell, pictured at Munster training this week, says that he and his team-mates know they must find more variation. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Chris Farrell, pictured at Munster training this week, says that he and his team-mates know they must find more variation. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

CIan Tracey

Within Munster's four walls there is an acceptance that they must evolve their attack if they are to return to former glories, particularly in Europe.

It is an attitude that is shared from the top down, as it appears that the club's hierarchy have given the go-ahead for Johann van Graan to bring in a new attack coach.

That has filtered down to the players and when you have one of the most important figures in Munster's attacking game-plan being so honest and forthright in his views, it is time to sit up and take notice.

Chris Farrell has missed plenty of rugby due to injury in his two-year spell with Munster, but he has quickly become a key cog in the back-line.

The 26-year-old powerhouse outside centre has proven time and time again that he can run through players with his brute strength, yet in more recent times it is his playmaking ability, especially his versatile range of passing, that has caught the eye.


Expanding his own game has coincided with the increased amount of time that Farrell has spent in the Ireland camp and in particular working closely with Joe Schmidt and Johnny Sexton, who he credits with having significantly improved his skill-set.

Back in Munster, however, the team are still struggling to consistently hit the heights that the players and coaches know they are more than capable of producing. "I certainly try and play to my strengths," Farrell says of his role within the team. "That is the power game and having ball in hand and carrying.

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"But I think we can do it more so than we are at the minute. Even in terms of using me as a distributor or as someone just to suck in defences, because eventually teams will realise that I may be used to get momentum and they will start to see that and adjust their defences.

"We can definitely find space outside of me or behind me - whatever way we can by manipulating defences by using me in different ways."

The frustration within Farrell is clear to see and when asked if Munster should be more of an attacking threat, he admits: "Yeah, that is fair. It is the last aspect of our game that really needs to kick on and really needs a little bit of work, because everything else is so good.

"Our defence has been the best in the competition this season and our set-piece is working really well.

"So if we can change our attack a slight bit, just to get a little bit more out of it and attack space in the right areas, more so than what we have been doing all season, then we can definitely be a lot better.

"I definitely think there is (more we can do). It's late in the season to be revolutionising your attack, but there are small things that we can do between now and hopefully if we get beyond this week, which is massive.

"With Joey (Carbery) back and Keith Earls back and Conor Murray back, these guys are massive in terms of zipping balls to you and getting balls to you earlier, so that you have a little bit more split seconds of extra time to do things with and see space."

Last summer there was a big emphasis placed on improving players' skills in Munster, with current backs and attack coach Felix Jones spending time working in New Zealand with the Hurricanes.

While there have been improvements in that regard, Farrell insists that his side still have a bit to go.

"One thing that we need to develop is our forwards being on the same page as our backs," the former Ulster player continues. "It's not about a forward unit working and then a backs unit separately whenever they want the ball. It's about having both.

"It's having them (forwards) run good lines that are going to influence defences, so that the backs can be playmakers out the back or just being together."

Potentially having Conor Murray, Joey Carbery and Keith Earls back in the fold against Benetton this weekend will unquestionably improve Munster's attacking options.

Van Graan may well be able to name an all-Ireland back-line and, if so, Farrell is hoping that they can replicate some of the things that they regularly work on in the international camp.

"Definitely, for me, Joe has been one of the best coaches at seeing general space, general flow attack and getting the best out of every player, whether it be forwards, backs, centres, wingers," adds the native of Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone.

"Working balls towards space and not even just Joe, but Johnny Sexton, that environment is phenomenal.

"He expects so much off everyone else and he directs everybody else in the way that he wants to find space. It has benefited me for sure.

"Us as a province, we need to bring that into our training more so than we have done. I suppose that is the next phase for us."

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