Thursday 22 August 2019

'Someone with his quality will be missed by Ireland'

Big interview: Chris Farrell

Chris Farrell being tackled by Edinburgh’s Chris Dean. Photo: Sportsfile
Chris Farrell being tackled by Edinburgh’s Chris Dean. Photo: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

When the extent of Dan Leavy's knee ligament injury came through on Monday morning, fellow Ireland international Chris Farrell was one of the first to drop him a text.

Farrell has faced his own battles with serious injury throughout his career but missing out on the chance at wearing an Irish jersey at a World Cup is incomprehensible.

The Munster man wished his Ireland colleague all the best in his recovery and predicted he'll give it his all to get back to the top.

"I can't begin to understand what he is going through at the minute," says Farrell. "For someone with his quality he will missed at national level and with Leinster themselves. It's insane.

Dan Leavy was ruled out of the World Cup after picking up an injury during Leinster’s Ulster clash last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile
Dan Leavy was ruled out of the World Cup after picking up an injury during Leinster’s Ulster clash last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

"I heard, at the weekend, that he went off with a nasty knee injury. But to begin to understand then how significant it was, and how complex it seems to be.

"I am sure all he has ever wanted in his career is to be able to show it at the highest level possible, and that's at a World Cup. For that to be taken away from him, it's so cruel.

"I texted him on Monday just to say hard luck. But he is still so, so young. The level of medical treatment and rehab that is available to us as rugby players in Ireland is incredible.

"He will back as strong as ever in a bit of time. He is young and has so much more time in his career.

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"He will be back fighting at the top in no time."

Farrell has suffered a couple of knee injuries himself already in 2019 and that curtailed his minutes on the pitch for Ireland during the Six Nations.

But the 26-year-old centre did add to his international caps playing the full 80 minutes in the victories over Scotland and Italy.

He is fit and ready to go for a huge end-of-season run-in with his province, and as Munster battle on both fronts Farrell is excited to be able to put his best foot forward.

"These are the games you want to be playing in because the spotlight is on," said Farrell. "As an individual, selfishly, these are the ones the international coaches will be watching.

Express

"For myself as a player who wants to keep battling with the other centres in the country to get a place in the national team, these are the ones where I can put my hand up and show them what I am about.

"Playing for your club you get a chance to express yourself in a way that others might not. It's great for me.

"Last year I sat out of all of these games because of doing my ACL in the Six Nations. It was hard watching these games and not being involved because it was the reason I came home from France.

"It's nice to be healthy and have a chance to feel what it's like to be in the team in these scenarios.

"There is nothing quite like the support you get from the Munster fans when you are in the knockout stages of Europe and the PRO14."

Munster's reached another Champions Cup semi-final last weekend with their stunning 17-13 win over Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

The Tyrone native played his 21st game for the province with another stellar 80-minute display at outside centre.

Munster relied on their brilliant defence to see the game out and Farrell knows that sort of victory with live long in the memory of players and supporters.

"It was massive, a huge win and we didn't perform as well as we would have liked but sometimes when you are playing away in the knockout stages in Europe, at a place like Edinburgh, you have to have the resilience to grind out the win the way we did," says Farrell.

"We can take a lot from the way that we did that. It was really, really important for this club. It's definitely important in terms of cementing a little bit of that resilience into this group.

"This group has lots of that and the players have been in that space before. But again you don't expect to ever run away with a quarter-final of a Champions Cup."

However, after Munster's brilliant win, Saracens hammered Glasgow Warriors 56-27 at the Allianz Park.

And in a repeat of the 2008 European Cup semi-final at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, they must try and down the English Premiership giants once again.

"During the after-match dinner it was on live on the big screen," says Farrell. "We were just keeping an eye on the scoreboard then. It became pretty clear after 20 or 30 minutes that Saracens were going to run away with it.

"On Sunday, I watched the game over again. We will leave that off now but everything we are doing in the next two weeks in preparation for Cardiff and Treviso, that will stand to us going into Saracens.

"We will just be looking at ourselves in the next two weeks. These are massive games without even looking at Saracens."

And Munster welcome Cardiff Blues to Irish Independent Park this evening in a huge PRO14 Conference A clash. Johann van Graan's side are currently three points behind Glasgow Warriors in the race to top the conference and gain home advantage for the semi-finals.

It's difficult to maintain the fight on both fronts but there's an added incentive in a World Cup year, a year where Ireland relinquished their Six Nations crown.

Potential

Farrell and his international colleagues know the potential is there and they are a better team than their Six Nations showing.

"It's something we must learn from in terms of being able to manage our own expectations and performance goals," he says.

"We put so much pressure on ourselves to perform better, maybe that had a sub-conscious effect on how we performed.

"But this team hasn't become a bad team overnight. There is so much quality in this country. We still won three games that were extremely competitive and we weren't performing to our maximum.

"As a group, we will get back together at some stage after all the work is done provincially and get a better look at what we did and we can do better. Right now, it's just about what we can do provincially.

"We have got to look at ourselves before we can look at anything else."

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