He hopes his men can today build on their nail-biting 18-16 win over Argentina when they take on Scotland, but for many this is their first real taste of what it is like to be a professional rugby player.
It’s not all new territory for the Belfast boy as his brother Kyle came through the Irish U-20s and is now a contracted player with Ulster, even though he didn’t make the world championship squad.
McCall, who starts on the bench for today’s game against the Scots in Calvisano (3.30pm Irish) as coach Nigel Carolan rotates his squad to meet the demanding schedule of five games in 19 days, said that it is a rite of passage which has yielded senior internationals.
“If you look at my brother, he played for the Irish U-20s and in his year the likes of Iain Henderson, Paddy Jackson, JJ Hanrahan.
“Unfortunately Kyle didn’t get to go to the World Cup but he played a big role in the Six Nations.
“I don’t think people realise how quickly you can be involved in a senior set-up. Straight after this if you can just prepare yourself for that as soon as possible
“I think you are bound to do well,” said the former Wallace High School pupil who is now in Queen’s University where he is studying sport technology.
He knows they got out of jail against Argentina after making life difficult for themselves, but he believes they are adjusting to the heat and the tempo of the competition.
“It’s nothing like we have ever really experienced before. It was pretty damn hot in Parma, I think it touched on 28 degrees and it’s not really what we are used to.
“But as the tournament goes on we will definitely adapt and it’s important that our bench makes an impact as well when boys are struggling in the heat.”
Scotland, the only side Ireland have beaten three times in the world championships, were hammered 68-10 by a rampant New Zealand side on Tuesday evening.
But while Ireland have won all clashes with them in the world championships, Scotland notched their third win in eight Six Nations meetings recently when they won 17-10 in Netherdale.
“We have point to prove against them. We got off to a good start in the Six Nations and we just tapered off towards the end of that tournament.
“We really had to pick ourselves up after that. It is just important that we get one up on them in the next game.
“They supposedly rested players and they have a stronger side to put out in the next couple of games. They will try and make an impact in the rest of the tournament but if we can just cut them off at source I think we should do alright against them,” he added.
Coach Nigel Carolan has made four changes for today’s clash, three of which are up front. Andrew Porter, who replaced the injured Jeremy Loughman after just eight minutes against Argentina, starts with Sean McNulty taking over from McCall at hooker. In the back row, Conor Oliver comes into the side for Rory Moloney.
Cork Con’s Liam O’Connor, drafted in when Jeremy Loughman’s tour ended after eight minutes with a broken nose, is selected on the bench and the only uncapped player now in the squad could make his debut.
The only change to the backline is on the right wing where Ciaran Gaffney, a later withdrawal before the Argentina game with an ankle injury, takes over from Jacon Stockdale.
Ireland assistant coach Colin McEntee said they are anxious to avenge the disappointing loss in Scotland at the end of the Six Nations.
“We are all a little bit hurting, players and management. We played them in Netherdale and to be fair they played really well that night.
“We were probably a little bit disappointed that we conceded ten points within three or four minutes which really let them into the game. We tended to chase that game since that point.
“Our players have matured a fair bit and this will be the test but we prepared well in the limited time that we have had.
“It’s such a short turnaround that a lot of it is just the mental and just getting that visual and confirming what we know about them and the opportunities that may present,” he said.
B Dardis (UCD); C Gaffney (Galwegians), G Ringrose (UCD), S Arnold (Ballynahinch), S Fitzgerald (Shannon); J Carbery (UCD), N McCarthy, (UCD) (Capt); A Porter (UCD), S McNulty (UCD), O Heffernan (Terenure College); D O’Connor (St Mary’s College), A Thompson (Queen’s University Belfast); J Murphy (UCD), C Oliver (St Mary’s), L Dow (Queen’s University Belfast).
Z McCall (Queen’s University Belfast), L O’Connor (Cork Constitution), C O’Donnell (Sligo/NUIG), J Dwan (UCD), N Timoney (St Mary’s College), C Rock (Old Belvedere), T Quinlan (Cork Constitution), J Stockdale (Queen’s University Belfast).