New Munster centre Chris Farrell pictured at a press briefing at UL this week
CENTRE Chris Farrell revealed that conversations with former Munster scrum-half Mike Prendergast had played a big part in his decision to move to Munster this season.
Farrell was coached by Prendergast at French club Grenoble last season.
Belfast-born Farrell said Prendergast, now attack coach of Top 14 club Oyonnax, said the Limerick man had reassured him that a switch to Munster would be a good move for him.
Farrell said: “Yeah, I spoke to him (Mike Prendergast) a lot. I think I had made the decision that I was not going to stay in France and I was so unsure about where to go.
”I met him one more time and that almost changed my mind in a way and from then on I was coming back to Munster, so I did speak to him a lot about it and he did reassure me it was a good place.”
Twenty four-year-old Farrell played his underage rugby with Cloher Valley RFC in Co Tyrone.
Within just six months of completing his second level studies at Campbell College, the powerful centre had made his senior debut for Ulster in an interprovincial derby against Leinster.
After spending an injury-blighted three seasons in Ulster, Farrell only made a handful of appearances for the northern outfit. As a 21-year-old, he decided to head for France in search of game time, becoming a regular in the Grenoble midfield.
The former Ireland U-20 international signed a two-year deal with Munster earlier this year.
Farrell said he found the intensity with which things are done at Munster was in contrast to France where it was more relaxed.
”I think I knew what to expect (arriving at Munster), it’s just massive changes compared to France in terms of the intensity that things are done around here. It was very relaxed in France compared to what we see here and that’s probably one of the main changes.”
Farrell admitted it had been a big decision to come back playing in Ireland.
“It was because, I was never going to stay where I was in France. I loved the Top 14, I loved the competition I loved playing week in, week out playing in front of big crowds and what not and against top players but it was tough decision to start with.
“But as soon as I made it, it was easier throughout the rest of the season especially when I watched Munster and how they got on last year and to watch a team with so much success, that just reassured me that it was the right decision.”
Returning to play in Ireland significantly boosts Farrell’s prospects of playing for the Irish national side in the coming seasons.
He said: “Yeah I contacted him (Joe Schmidt) and I met him myself and I knew he was watching games and he gave me a bit feedback on games so there was contact but my decision was to join Munster because it’s a fantastic club.
”In France whenever I told somebody I was coming here they were (saying), ‘Oh really, it’s a massive club’. There’s such a buzz in France about Munster, they always have such high thoughts of Munster as a club.”
Asked about the French clubs’ tendancy to target winning home fixtures more so than away ones, Farrell explained:
”It will be interesting to see how it goes here (at Munster) when we are away for the first time, but in France I suppose it depends how you go at the start of the season.
”Us, last year; we were trying to get a win because at stages we weren’t even winning our home games, so it was just focusing on our home games and even the away games that you would have targeted wouldn’t have been against the smaller clubs like Brive or La Rochelle because the small teams are incredibly strong at home with their support.
”You’d target your Racing’s, your Stade Francais’ or some of the Paris teams that don’t have that big support. It’s a weird competition but a hugely enjoyable one at the same time.”
Farrell is excited by the prospect by playing his first competitive fixture at Thomond Park on Saturday when South African newcomers, the Cheetahs, visit for their Guinness PRO14 second round game.
Farrell had previously played a pre-friendly with Grenoble at the venue.
“We haven’t seen a lot of them (the Cheetahs). We’ve seen them against Ulster and seen them play in Super Rugby.
“There’s an unpredictability about them, but there’s also got such individuals with ability. They can score tries from anywhere and their unpredictability can be dangerous.
“In the same what it could be advantageous to us if we do our things right. If we stick to our structures and are accurate in everything we do, sometimes we weren’t in the second half last weekend.”