‘He was a legend when he was playing and has continued that in his coaching’

MUNSTER AND IRELAND centre Chris Farrell predicts that Ireland will continue to hit new heights under the leadership of Andy Farrell.

The former Grenoble back missed out on Ireland’s summer tour and the recent November internationals due to a cruciate ligament injury sustained on Six Nations duty, but after making his comeback against Zebre last weekend, is excited about the future.

Farrell made his comeback on Sunday. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

The announcement that Joe Schmidt will retire from coaching after next year’s World Cup came as no surprise, and the Munster man says Andy Farrell is the perfect man to replace him.

“No matter who comes in to help Andy Farrell, it’s a player-driven culture and everything that he has done makes me think that’s going to continue,” said Chris Farrell.

“(It excited me) massively. He’s been unbelievable under Joe and it’ll be no different whenever he takes over and whoever else comes in to help him.

“He’s a massively inspiring character. You go into camp and the work that he has done prior to you going in there is phenomenal. And the work he continues to do while you in the camp is inspiring.

“He really has so much charisma you really want to play for him. He was a legend when he was playing Rugby League and he has continued that in his coaching.

“Maybe from the outside there is an intimidation factor, I suppose. Physically he’s a mountain of a man himself. He came in for two or three weeks here last season but it was the same: he had a lot of guys really looking up to him and he drove the standards again.”

Munster coach Johann van Graan could give Farrell his first start for the province since January against Edinburgh this Friday [KO 7.35pm eir Sport/Premier Sports], but the coach says he was not surprised to see Schmidt end his tenure as Irish head coach.

Schmidt called van Graan to personally inform him of his decision to retire from coaching, and the Munster boss says his choice to step away from the game altogether has to be respected.

“No (I’m not surprised). David Nucifora was brilliant in his communication to us with exactly where the process was. Joe had phoned me personally and said that is his decision,” said van Graan.

“What more can you say about the man? Respect is the first word that comes up. He has been brilliant, but not so much the results that he gained with his team, it is the way that he conducted himself, the way that he is perceived all over the rugby playing world.

“I believe it is a big loss for Irish rugby, but I believe it is a decision which needs to be respected because he has given so much to rugby all over the world. I really wish him well.

Farrell speaking to the media in Limerick yesterday. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Since I came in — even before I came in — the way he has handled me and the times we have spoken about the game and about decisions, the way he has welcomed me into the Irish camp and the Irish rugby family has been brilliant.”

Van Graan has been boosted by the return of his international players to the squad this week.

Some of his Ireland contingent will be available for the round 10 clash against Edinburgh, although Darren Sweetnam could face an extended period on the sidelines after he suffered a back injury against USA. 

“Sweets has gone to see a specialist today,” the head coach said. “I think that injury might turn out to be serious. He definitely has got a lot of pain.

“We’re very disappointed that he couldn’t continue on Saturday, that’s why he walked off the field. He put the team first. We are pretty worried about that injury.”

After months of sidestepping discussions about Conor Murray’s fitness, van Graan said he was delighted to see him back on the field.

According to the head coach, Murray will be involved against this weekend in Cork.

“It is great to have him back in the team, it just lifts the team. He has really worked hard from the first day.

“He even went in for a steal to show that the injury doesn’t sit in his head, so (I’m) very happy with his first outing. He will definitely either be on the bench or will start.”

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