It is four years since Craig Gilroy came off the bench to score three tries for Ireland in the Stadio Olympico.
The Ulster wing has not played in green since that Six Nations win over Italy, and while former international team-mates are in Rome this weekend, Gilroy has plenty of battles to fight on the home front these days.
He is no longer first choice at Ulster, and his try in last week’s PRO14 win over Glasgow was his first in 14 months. He is replaced in the team for tonight’s home clash against the Ospreys by Jacob Stockdale, who has not played since suffering a knee injury in January, and will be hoping for a recall to Andy Farrell’s squad.
Although Gilroy does not turn 30 for two weeks, he feels like a veteran, but is determined to keep fighting.
“It feels like I have been here forever. I have played with so many guys in an Ulster shirt, but I would like to keep going,” said Gilroy, who recently signed a one-year contract extension.
“There is some exciting talent coming through and you see similarities with when you were that age and those boys are enjoying being in a winning.
“I am still only 29 and I love my rugby. That feeling of putting on an Ulster shirt last weekend and scoring a try felt as euphoric as it did at the start of my career.
“I’ve got to keep those whipper snappers off my heels.”
Sean Reidy is back in the Ulster squad for the first time since picking up a shoulder injury in the Champions Cup game against Gloucester in December, while wing Robert Baloucoune makes the squad for the first time this season.
Stockdale’s inclusion is one of three changes to the starting 15 from last week’s win away to Glasgow.
South African Marcell Coetzee misses out through injury, and will be replaced in the back row by Greg Jones.
Nick Timoney moves from blindside to number eight, while Andrew Warwick replaces Eric O’Sullivan in the front row.
ULSTER: M Lowry; R Lyttle, J Hume, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; I Madigan, J Cooney; A Warwick, J Andrew, M Moore; A O’Connor, K Treadwell; G Jones, J Murphy (capt), N Timoney
Replacements: A McBurney, E O’Sullivan, R Kane, C Izuchukwu, S Reidy, A Mathewson, M Faddes, R Baloucoune.
OSPREYS: D Evans; K Giles, T Thomas-Wheeler, K Williams, L Morgan; S Myler, R Webb (capt); G Thomas, S Parry, T Botha; L Ashley, R Davies; W Griffiths, O Cracknell, M Morris.
Replacements: I Phillips, N Smith, M Fia, G Evans, S Cross, S Venter, J Hawkins, L Price.