Chris Farrell is relishing the freshness at Ireland camp as they gear up for a first Guinness Six Nations without Joe Schmidt since 2013.
Ireland enjoyed huge levels of success during Schmidt’s six years at the helm – winning three Championship titles, including a Grand Slam in 2018.
But the New Zealander left the role after last autumn’s World Cup and his former assistant coach Andy Farrell is now in charge.
While there is some continuity from Schmidt’s staff, there are also a number of new coaches on board, with Ireland currently enjoying a training camp in Portugal ahead of their Championship opener against Scotland on Saturday.
And Munster centre Farrell (no relation to new coach Andy) admits everything feels new and exciting among the squad.
“It’s been really refreshing to have [scrum coach] John Fogarty and [assistant coach] Mike Catt in,” he explained to the official Irish Rugby website.
“They’ve been excellent to deal with so far and really exciting to have different voices.
“The environment itself has changed a lot – it’s very different despite some similar faces with Faz [Andy Farrell] and the backroom staff. It’s really refreshing.
“There’s also a lot of youth and new faces in the playing group, with lads who have come into form. It’s great to have a refreshed squad and maybe that helps the environment feel different. It’s a great place to be.”
There are five uncapped players in Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations squad, while an additional quartet – Ulster star Robert Baloucoune and Leinster trio Ryan Baird, Harry Byrne and Will Connors – are training with the team as development players in order to gain experience.
And Farrell – who will hope to add to his nine international caps during the course of the Championship – is convinced Ireland are better-stocked than ever across the board.
“We have massive depth,” he added. “In certain positions it has been like that for a couple of years but now in other positions, we’re seeing the depth charts increase.
“With the development players in this season as well – it’s a new thing and will help players be more comfortable when they do come into the main squad in future.
“We need players being comfortable in the environment and putting their hands up because it improves everyone as a player.”