Leinster hooker James Tracy admits he would be “delusional” to expect to be part of Ireland’s Six Nations squad.
The 27-year-old won his first cap against Canada in November 2016, and made his Six Nations debut against Italy three months later. Four caps followed, on the 2017 summer tour to the US and Japan and then in November against Fiji and Argentina.
But no further calls have arrived since, with Rory Best, Seán Cronin, Niall Scannell, and Rob Herring ahead in the pecking order.
Tracy remains a key player at European champions Leinster, but the Kildare man admits he needs to do “everything” better to get back to where he was in 2017. “I am definitely not where I want to be but I am building in the right direction,” he said.
“Form is a weird thing, you don’t have control necessarily, all you can do is try your hardest and train your hardest and the rest will fall into place.
“Missing out on the Ireland squad, it is a big disappointment but I know myself if you want to be picked for that, you have to be better than everyone else and I know myself I haven’t been.
I know it’s in my control if I can get my stuff right, I was there before and hopefully if I can get playing like I was then, I can get back in the picture, but until I can get back to that level I can’t be delusional.
“I’d say I was in better playing form then, having better moments in games, more consistently than I am at the moment.”
Playing regularly might help, but Tracy is not able to put his finger on why his form has dipped. “I think playing helps but if you read any sportspeople’s books, sometimes there’s no explanation for form, if there was a formula we’d all be doing it. All you can do is try your best, but if I had the formula, I’d be doing it.”
Tracy was part of the youthful Ireland squad in Japan 2017 that saw James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale take their first steps on the world stage — but he’s laughed off any comparison with his Leinster teammate. “It’s harsh comparing me to James Ryan, one of the best players to ever come along — it’s like comparing myself to Brian O’Driscoll or Paul O’Connell.
“He’s up there with the best I’ve seen ever. He’s come on at 20, 21, and he just hasn’t stopped. I aspire to be James Ryan one day, if that answers your question. We could all aspire to be James Ryan, we’d be doing alright, wouldn’t we?”