Tuesday 22 January 2019

Schmidt backs Chris Farrell to step onto centre stage after Henshaw blow

Chris Farrell has recovered from a knee injury. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Chris Farrell has recovered from a knee injury. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt admits that Chris Farrell is the favourite to start Ireland's crunch Six Nations meeting with Wales alongside Bundee Aki.

The pair played together against Argentina and the head coach has been impressed with elements of the Munster centre's game since he returned from a spell in France with Grenoble.

Schmidt revealed that Henshaw's season is in jeopardy as he faces a three- to four-month recovery period after undergoing shoulder surgery on Monday.

It also emerged yesterday that Iain Henderson is struggling with a hamstring problem and he trained with Tadhg Furlong away from the main squad at yesterday's open session in Athlone. James Ryan was not fit enough to take part in the work-out.

The New Zealander hopes all three will be fit to train on Tuesday which would clear them for selection.

He confirmed that Garry Ringrose should be fit to play next week and may come into the squad, but it looks more likely that he will play for Leinster against Southern Kings rather than being pitched back into the Test arena.

And that leaves the door open for Farrell.

"I do think Chris would have his nose in front because he's been with us the whole time and Garry hasn't," Schmidt said. "As much as Garry has had more Test match experience and was outstanding in Japan and the USA and was super for us previous to that, Chris has got the current game form with us.

"He kind of found his feet a bit against Fiji, he was really good against Argentina and I think he showed there's a bit more to Chris Farrell than a bludgeon - nice soft skills and a tight pass, he's got a good length in his pass.

"He's actually got pretty good kicking skills and I thought his defensive acumen on the day against Argentina... he closed the space down really well.

"They'd be probably some of the things that we'd volunteer as the strengths we see with Chris."

Irish Independent

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