Ireland centre Chris Farrell says he had accepted that his chances of an international career were over when he signed for Grenoble in 2014.
The County Tyrone native joined the French Top 14 side after struggling to break into Ulster’s senior squad at the age of 21.
“I did believe that I was capable of becoming an international,” said Farrell.
“It’s just that ‘going away’ part when I was like ‘that’s probably gone’.”
Farrell made his World Cup debut on Saturday, replacing the injured Bundee Aki during the first half of Ireland’s 27-3 win over Scotland.
As is the case with several players, Farrell’s move back to Ireland, and therefore back into international selection contention, was engineered by head coach Joe Schmidt, who would regularly send the centre feedback on his performances during his three-season stint in France.
“I was 21, leaving the country at that age having not really made a massive mark on the provincial game,” Farrell reflects.
“[I thought] ‘It’s a good opportunity for me to play on the top stage against top internationals but the international thing is probably gone unless things go really well’, and fortunately they did.”
Man of the match on debut against Wales
Four years after seemingly consigning himself to a career without an Ireland cap, Farrell made his international debut with a man-of-the-match performance against Wales during Ireland’s 2018 Six Nations Grand Slam campaign.
“Could I say that I could have been an international at 21 having not got an awful lot of professional game time? No, I probably can’t,” he said.
“I had so many injuries at the time and I didn’t get much game-time but I believed whenever I was growing up that I was good enough to become an international.”
Farrell contributed handsomely as Ireland swept aside Scotland in their opening Pool A match in Yokohama, and is in line for more game time against hosts Japan this weekend with centres Aki and Robbie Henshaw returning from injury.
Now 26, he is set to be an integral part of Ireland’s set-up at this tournament, where Ireland will seek to progress beyond the quarter-finals for the first time, and indeed for the foreseeable future.
“I feel like it’s probably made it all worthwhile,” he said.
“I never doubted what I was doing, even when I was going. I took risks and they paid off.”