Luke Fitzgerald in training this week.
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.”
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.