A grand total of 34 minutes off the bench wouldn’t be everyone’s idea of a good November, but Dave Kilcoyne returns to Munster this week more than satisfied with his month’s work with Ireland.
Joe Schmidt fielded three different midfield combinations against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina.
He gave youth its head on the wings and in the second row, in particular, and he tore up the script entirely at loosehead.
Though a key member of the British and Irish Lions summer tour to New Zealand, Jack McGrath found himself slipping from first-choice to third, Cian Healy reclaiming the No. 1 shirt that been his and his alone for six years at one point and Kilcoyne stepping up as first deputy.
“I thought my form was quite strong with Munster coming into this,” said the 28-year old prop. “Again, on the back of some good team performances.
“I had been knocking on the door for a while and, all credit to the coaches, they put faith in me and I’m here to deliver when called upon.”
Eighteen of his 22 caps have now been earned off the bench, but Kilcoyne pinpoints the summer tour to the US and Japan — in which he was a used replacement in all three games — and an increased bulk as key in his elevation up the ranks.
“I’ve put on a bit of weight after the tour.
“It was an area that I thought I could manage and that would be more beneficial to me.
“It has definitely stood to me. Felix (Jones) and some of the coaches in Munster introduced some other subtleties to my game.
“I had a good chat with Joe and Simon (Easterby) at the end of the Japan tour.
“Simon gave me a few tips, things I could be working on over the summer and that I could be bringing in to my game, and the management have been really receptive towards that.”
He’d thought about the weight issue before.
A chat with Jerry Flannery a few years back got him thinking about his optimum bulk and, when he looked back a few months ago, he decided to go with the weight at which he had played his best rugby and felt most comfortable.
The net increase has been somewhere between five and six kilos.
It’s a bump that reflects a wider trend with All Black props, for instance, now weighing a minimum of five kilos more than they had done five years ago. It’s the heaviest he has ever been.
Not everyone is on trend.
Healy has gone off in the opposite direction, shedding ten kilos from the imposing frame that served him at the last Rugby World Cup.
The Leinster man reckons he is now at his lowest fighting weight since 2008.
“Everyone is different. Cian is playing really well and there is a lot of competition right around Ireland at the moment, in every position. It’s a great headache for the coaches to have and it definitely beings the best out of myself, Jack and Cian and even James (Cronin) down below.”
Kilcoyne has paid his dues. He earned eight caps in his first campaign with Ireland and then took three seasons to amass that same number again. He admits that it had been difficult to remain positive for so long while his two Leinster colleagues held court.
The challenge now is to build on this with Munster as the Johann van Graan era begins.
“We will get back and be fully focused now with Johann taking over down below.
“I have been in contact with some of the management and the players down there and there seems to be a bit of a positive vibe down there. Hopefully, we can kick on and do well in Europe.”
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