It is important that Irish provinces do not overlook the likes of Tom Farrell, who take a little bit longer to develop than most, according to Andy Dunne.
“If the IRFU solely look at their academy structures as a breeding ground, albeit a very healthy one, they’re missing a trick.
“There was a school of thought for a good few years there that if you miss the boat at eighteen, you miss the boat and it ought not to be the case. So Tom obviously bucks that trend,” Dunne told Monday’s OTB AM.
Dunne saw plenty to like in the match in Galway, saying the Connacht-Munster match was one of the best Pro14 inter-provincial derbies in recent years.
“They were stretching each other’s defences in terms of how quickly they were moving the ball, how much variation they had, how much width they used," Dunne stated.
Although numerous players impressed, Dunne was drawn toward Connacht's Farrell, as well as his Munster namesake, Chris.
While Chris Farrell’s size is what would worry most would-be defenders on first impressions, it is not the only tool at the former Ulster man’s disposal.
“The biggest differentiating factor for Chris Farrell is his ability to pass the ball. He can get the ball away from a tackle, even if there’s two or three tacklers on him, and if they sit and wait for him he can spin wide balls off either hand,” Dunne said.
Tom Farrell, though, was arguably man of the match, despite being on the losing side, and has started to attract attention after a number of impressive performances for Connacht.
Tom Farrell's game in numbers:
107 metres made
3 defenders beaten
2 clean breaks
1 try assist
— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) January 5, 2019
The 25-year old has taken a different route than most in Irish rugby, playing for English Championship side Bedford Blues, before signing for Connacht in 2017.
Saturday’s other Irish derby between Leinster and Ulster was not as thrilling an encounter, with a weakened Leinster side running out comfortable 40-7 victors over a similarly weakened Ulster team.
Dunne saw the game as “a bit of a non-event”, saying that games of its kind are “probably a greater issue for the Pro14 league itself” due to the second-string sides on display.
While the game didn’t feature many big-name players, performances from man of the match Conor O’Brien and Leinster fly-half Ciaran Frawley provided viewers with a possible glimpse of the first-string Leinster team of the future.
“For Leinster it was important to try to figure out who their third-choice number ten is, because Johnny’s not going to play every game. They need someone they can trust to drive that game and it looks like Frawley is in the driving seat as that third choice.”
Crucial games are in store for all four provinces this weekend as they look to make it to the knockout stages in Europe. In the Champions Cup, Munster travel to Gloucester on Friday night while on Saturday, Leinster take on Toulouse in the RDS and Ulster face Racing 92 in the Kingspan Stadium. Meanwhile, Connacht play Sale Sharks in the Challenge Cup in Galway the same day.
Written by Eoin Harte.