It says a great deal about the quality of loose head props in the country at the moment when Joe Schmidt doesn’t need the services of either James Cronin or Dave Kilcoyne for Ireland’s clash with England at Twickenham tomorrow.
Both have been outstanding servants of the game for several years but with one or two exceptions have been left at home on the biggest days of all while the Leinster pair Cian Healy and Jack McGrath enjoyed the limelight.
That’s very much the situation again this week with almost all the focus on Twickenham tomorrow and precious little on Treviso and Munster at Stadio Monigo a day later.
“I was bitterly disappointed not to go to the World Cup,” Kilcoyne admitted this week.
“I have come back and I have tried to give as big a reaction as I can — two tries at the weekend, I am just going to keep putting my best foot forward. I look back at myself just trying to get better week to week. Joe gave me something specific and tangible to work on. I have done that. It is something measurable, so I am here if he comes calling.”
The availability of the Munster pair is, of course, good news for the beleaguered province as they face the potential disaster of missing out on qualification for next year’s European Champions Cup.
“That would be unimaginable and unthinkable, the worst case scenario for us,” stressed Kilcoyne.
“I have never been in a Munster team that hasn’t been involved in Europe. We have to come out fighting. We have a big end to the season.
“These are must-win games for us. I think everyone knows that and we just have to get on a real winning streak.”
Kilcoyne heads for Italy and Munster’s fourth meeting of the season with Treviso with confidence sky high after his two tries against Glasgow last week.
But he plays down their significance insisting “I never really look past the result. That is the business we are in, it’s results based and we didn’t get the result we wanted. Obviously, you are always happy to get two tries in a game but it doesn’t matter at all really to me when you don’t get the result.
“I look at the table but not too far ahead obviously. If you look at the Ospreys and Glasgow matches, one try at the end of both and we would have picked up 10 points and been much further up the table.
“That is a really fine margin we are dealing with and down to us not closing out games the way we should. The buck stops with us.”
Former great Denis Leamy was in UL for this week’s session but it seems Felix Jones, who was forced to retire earlier this season, is working more closely with the squad.
Kilcoyne enthused: “It is indicative of how he played, the level of professionalism he brought to the club. In my mind he is one of the top, top guys we had here, both as a trainer, person, leader, player.
“He has brought all those attributes back in and he has ultimately been a huge boost for us. Hopefully we can take some of his advice and leadership and capitalise on it.”
Kilcoyne also welcomes the arrival of former Lions defence coach Andy Farrell with the squad.
“We have a defence group down here and Andy is obviously an expert in the area as well as in other aspects of the game,” he said.
“He has caught up with lads individually and spoke to us collectively in a defence group meeting. I thought he spoke incredibly well. You take little nuggets from those meetings and you try and use them as best you can. He has been a huge help.”
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