Craig Gilroy may have been a late addition to Ireland’s passenger list for South Africa but the Ulster wing is determined to ensure there is no hint of a wasted journey over the next three weeks.
The 25-year-old from Belfast was one of a quartet also including Matt Healy, Ian Madigan and Tiernan O’Halloran to get the call from Joe Schmidt eight days ago to replace the injured Luke Fitzgerald, Dave Kearney, Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney on the plane for Cape Town. Now Gilroy now has a shot at a first Test appearance since winning his sixth Ireland cap against Georgia in November 2014.
“Everyone wants to have played more, but the competition in my position is vast and you just to have to be that little better, have those one-per-centers (individual actions during a game) to play international rugby for Ireland,” Gilroy said.
“Right now I’ve put my head down and worked hard these last couple of seasons, and I feel like I’m getting the rewards for that.” Gilroy’s performances in an Ulster jersey earned him a spot on the Guinness Pro12 dream team for the season and he said yesterday he had strived to improve his game and meet the exacting standards Ireland boss Schmidt demands of his wingers.
“He’s big in the air. He wants good aerial skills, something I’ve been working hard on back with the province. He wants stuff at the breakdown, stuff like that, not just someone who’s going to stand on the wing and wait for the ball, and try and do the fancy work; more of an all-round game.
“It’s good. It means it will round off our game, and I hope to be able to do the stuff that I can do to maybe bring a little bit of X factor and give Joe what he wants as well on top of that.” Doing that against South Africa, ranked third in the world, on their home turf will be a massive ask of this Ireland team but Gilroy believes the challenge of winning for the first time against the Boks away from home represents a brilliant opportunity for the squad.
“Success for Ireland is, I think, to take it one Test at a time, to try and prepare as best we can and deliver on the pitch what we have prepared. There’s a good mix. We’ve got some older more experienced players and then we’ve got some new guys in, some guys who have never been capped before, so I think it’s a good mix and there’s a huge opportunity there. It’s hard work to get here. The first part is getting here and getting the opportunity, and the second part is taking it.”
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