THE snow was general all over Scotland the day Jamie Farndale’s new Edinburgh contract was announced. If he had stayed with the national sevens squad he could be looking forward even now to sunkissed tournaments in the likes of Los Angeles and Singapore, yet instead had opted to sign his first permanent deal with the capital team.
It may have seemed counter-intuitive to those of us who long for better weather, but not to Farndale. While the sun might well have been brighter on the other side, he had decided that the grass was not greener, and that, having done pretty much all he could in sevens, it was time to make the change for good.
“It’s exciting to be here, so that’s what I’m focusing on,” the 25-year-old winger said. “I’m very ambitious with my rugby career, it’s quite a short period of time and I’m always wanting to achieve the goals that I can achieve.
“I’ve had a great time playing sevens, a big part of my life. I’ve been to the World Cup, to the Commonwealth Games, pushed close for Olympics and captained the side. There are things I want to achieve in 15s, so this is another step closer to putting myself in a position to do that.
“It’s exciting, really. The season started really well, I played a few games in a row and I felt like I played well. It always was an opportunity to show what I can do and I feel like I’ve done that and put myself in a position to add to it.”
Weight and see
Given his height, size and robustness, there was never any real doubt that Farndale would be able to make the transition from sevens to 15s, but if anything he has adapted more speedily and successfully than expected. “I was quite lucky, because I was a bigger sevens player,” he explained. “That puts me in that bit where I can fit into both quite well. There are a few players that would want to be leaner if they played sevens or would go up a bit more weight for 15s.
“A bit more weight doesn’t doesn’t harm you in 15s and I’ve probably put on two or three kilos just through all the gym work. That helps in 15s, whereas in sevens you want to be leaner – but one of my points of difference in sevens was being a bigger guy. I was always someone who was able to stay relatively fit and fast and keep that strength on.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve changed too much. The skills are very similar, being a winger in 15s and sevens. Technically and tactically, there’s maybe some little skills like high-ball work that are more prevalent in 15s.
“Work-ethic wise, I would say I’ve taken a lot from Sevens. There’s only a handful of coaches and boys run things themselves. You’re not looked after in the way you are here where you’ve got coaches in the gym and you’ve got people looking after you. Everything’s taken care of.
“It’s a very professional environment here, but I do like that I’ve come from a very self-sufficient environment where you’ve got to do things yourself, and you’ve got to work hard and everything is not there for you on a plate. It’s quite good to have that ingrained in you for years and then come into an environment like this. First of all, you appreciate it but you also don’t lose that work ethic, that sets you up well for everything.”
Move on up
If 15s can often feel like more hard work than sevens, especially mentally, Farndale is sure he will not lose sight of the need to be creative. “There are a lot more tactics in 15s – a lot more calls, more structure,” he continued. “The set piece, there’s exactly a role off each thing and for a few phases – where you’re going to be, how you’re going to work as part of a team.
“In sevens it’s more instinctive, I suppose, it’s more taken back to you on your feet. You’ve got a lot of one-v-ones and a lot of basic skills are exposed a lot more under a lot more fatigue and pressure.
“Before games, my mindset was just to go out and play. You know you’re going to be knackered but it’s a good place to be because you go out and you do your thing.
“In 15s, there’s a bit more going through your roles, knowing your detail and knowing your structure. The approach to the games is different, but ultimately in both games you just want to go out and express yourself.”
With Duhan van der Merwe, Darcy Graham and Eroni Sau also in contention for starting wing berths, Farndale has had to wait patiently for chances to play for Edinburgh. He last played in the Challenge Cup win over Wasps in December, but, with some team-mates unavailable during the Six Nations, he is likely to be in the squad again in the coming weeks, probably starting on Saturday, when Edinburgh visit Llanelli on PRO14 duty.
“It’s a good opportunity,” he concluded. “The last opportunity when I played a lot of games was that World Cup period. I felt like I made the most of that. It’s the same situation, Six Nations and people are away, it’s a great time for me to put my hand up. Selection is obviously not my decision but when I get the chance, I’ll take it with both hands.”