Kieran Marmion finished with a flourish against South Africa on Saturday but now the Ireland scrum-half is hoping he will get the chance to make a similar impact as a starter.
With the Ireland management saying they will send out a side to face Fiji this Saturday evening that is rejigged from the one that trounced the Springboks 38-3, Marmion’s impressive turn off the bench in the final 10 minutes of that game has put the Connacht man in prime position for a starting berth against the Tier Two islanders.
Marmion is no stranger to replacing the first-choice nine Conor Murray, having come off the bench for 13 of his 17 caps since his debut on the 2014 summer tour to Argentina. Yet the 25-year-old is increasingly making his presence felt and last Saturday against the South Africans he played a pivotal role as the Irish ran in three late tries to rack up a record-winning margin over the Boks.
It was a good night for Ireland’s bench as a whole with the front row of Dave Kilcoyne, Rob Herring and John Ryan continuing the home side’s scrum dominance, tries for Rhys Ruddock and hooker Herring, two classy conversions from Joey Carbery and an excellent piece of skill from debutant Darren Sweetnam with a great pick up off the ground of Carbery’s crossfield kicked pass in the build-up to the final try for starting wing Jacob Stockdale.
Now Marmion is confident those replacements, himself among them, can back that up from the start against Fiji.
“We’re just doing our stuff in training and transferring it to the game. Lads have had starts before and it’s just about making sure we perform when we get the chance. It’s definitely a different challenge this week, (Fiji) have a lot of individuals who are seriously talented. Looking through their profiles, and the athleticism and power, the off-loading that they bring, I think it’s going to definitely be a challenge for our lads to play against, it will be tough to take them down.
“I guess that’s the challenge in itself, to make sure we’re on top of that and we’re ready for them.”
Marmion has looked increasingly at ease in the Test arena and made the most of Murray’s extended absence at the end of the Six Nations, starting the final game against Grand Slam-chasing England and helping to inflict a first defeat since Eddie Jones became their head coach after the 2015 World Cup.
He took that into the summer tour to the United States and Japan, starting two of the three Tests ahead of Luke McGrath, adding further to his comfort levels within the Ireland camp.
“Playing against one of those top nations (England), that’s going to give you confidence and I guess I’ll take as much as I can from it.
“I’ve got a bit more time under my belt, I know the systems a bit better and know what’s expected a bit more. I guess that gives you confidence and hopefully I’ll bring that into the game at the weekend.” Nor does stepping out from the shadow of Lions Test starter Murray pose any problems for Marmion.
“I think as a player you’ve got to back yourself. I think if you don’t back yourself then nobody probably will. Your performance, you get that from training, the confidence, and as soon as that happens you’ve got to get out on the pitch and make sure you earn it.”
Last Saturday, he said, it was “great to be out there.
“You do a lot of reps in training and get a lot of confidence through that. Great to get that time under my belt against a top nation. Really enjoyed it. Having a bit more game time, confidence grows with that. I guess just keep building as much as I can and keep trying to improve as much as I can going forward.”
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