Fitzgerald: I had hoped to start before now

Fitzgerald: I had hoped to start before now

Luke Fitzgerald in training this week.

By Grainne McGuinness and Shaun Cronin

Luke Fitzgerald doesn’t want to describe his place in the starting XV as luck, but the result of hard work and persistence.

When he lines out at Murrayfield on Saturday it will be his first Ireland start since 2011 and his first appearance in green since November 2013.

The Leinster back has been plagued with injuries for long stretches of his career - he earned his first cap in 2006, but has earned only 27 more in the nine years since.

He spoke today about what it meant to be back in the starting spots.

“I’ve been reminded constantly that it’s four years since my last start in a Six Nations Match,” he said after the team announcement.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be involved this weekend for the big one. It feels like it’s an awful lot of hard work rewarded in the end.”

He was asked was he surprised to be named among the starters for the final game of the tournament.

“No, I don’t think so,” he answered. “Obviously there’s an awful lot of quality opposition competing for those back slots, but I felt I was pushing really hard.

“I’ve been training well and trying to keep the head down. They’re important aspects when you’re part of the extended squad.

“I think I was probably pretty close before the English game - obviously Simon had a fantastic game that day. It was a tricky game last weekend and I get the nod this weekend.”

Fitzgerald: I had hoped to start before now

Simon Zebo in action against England.

Rather than be surprised Fitzgerald admitted he had hoped to feature before now.

“I was, I can’t lie!” he said. “I was disappointed because I thought I was coming in playing some really good rugby.”

He acknowledges the understandable reluctance of the backroom team to tinker with a winning formula.

“From the coaches perspective though, you’ve got to be empathetic in these scenarios, even though it’s unbelievably hard when you’re so invested,” he said.

“Changing a winning team is always tricky. The boys had been doing a really good job for a long period of time - 10 wins in a row isn’t easily done in any jersey.”

Listen to full Luke Fitzgerald interview here.

He admitted there were times, particularly in the last two years, when retirement felt more likely than a career renaissance.

“It’s hard when you feel like you’re a million miles away and you’re close to retiring because you can’t figure out injuries.”

“I didn’t really see a way back and just couldn’t figure out what the problem was,” he explained.

“Funny given all the major, structural (injuries) I’ve had, it was a soft-tissue injury that was the one I was closest to calling it a day over. I couldn’t figure it out and it was too frustrating coming in two or three times a day and working really hard and getting no results.

“When you’re that close it’s really, really hard.”

Now that he has his chance, the 27-year-old is excited rather than nervous to have the opportunity.

“For myself, I feel that I have nothing to prove,” Fitzgerald explained “I’ve played a lot of times for Ireland at this stage and people know what I’m about. I’ve just got to go out and execute what I’m good at.

“I think I’m pretty experienced and looking forward to it at this stage. I’m not really too nervous, more looking forward to it than anything else.”

Breakingnews.ie sports reporter Shaun Cronin spoke to Irish Examiner rugby correspondant Simon Lewis about the upcoming match.

More on this topic

Paul O’Connell named Six Nations Player of the TournamentPaul O’Connell named Six Nations Player of the Tournament

We are not happy, says England rugby chiefWe are not happy, says England rugby chief

Henshaw hails ‘ultimate leader’ O’Connell after Six Nations winHenshaw hails ‘ultimate leader’ O’Connell after Six Nations win

VIDEO: Fan’s hilarious reaction sums up all our feelings at the end of England v FranceVIDEO: Fan’s hilarious reaction sums up all our feelings at the end of England v France

More in this Section

Tipperary All-Ireland winner Tom Larkin passes awayTipperary All-Ireland winner Tom Larkin passes away

Thierry Henry sends message of support to Norwich kidney transplant youngsterThierry Henry sends message of support to Norwich kidney transplant youngster

Simon Jordan claims Premier League players are resisting pressure for a pay cutSimon Jordan claims Premier League players are resisting pressure for a pay cut

More FIFA bribe claims tabled in US courtMore FIFA bribe claims tabled in US court


Lifestyle

Our window on the world opens wide for tonight.Homes from Mayo, Tyrone and Cork tonight on RTÉ series Home of the Year

A difficult situation for a family member, however, helped the up and coming chef to keep it all in perspective.65 Roses Day John, Jade and Elizabeth NeedhamCavan chef Adrian Martin laments impact of Covid-19 on London restaurant

In a new daily feature, Arts editor Des O'Driscoll lists the best things on the box for the evening aheadTuesday's TV highlights: The past revisited

Don’t ask me which week it is at this stage — I wouldn’t be surprised to wake up one of these mornings and discover that it’s Christmas Day,Learner Dad: "I’m an Irish male born before 1990, so tears are not an option"

More From The Irish Examiner