It’s taken almost a decade and over 50 caps but Andrew Trimble finally feels comfortable in a green shirt.
In and out of the Ireland team — and squad — down the years, he thought his days of Test rugby were behind him when he watched the November internationals from a commentator’s booth high in the Aviva Stadium stands.
Then Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald, Keith Earls, Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy all fell foul of injury and the 29-year old was parachuted into the starting side for the opening Six Nations game against Scotland.
It looked like a holding operation.
He spoke before that game about how it would be his own fault if he didn’t grasp the unexpected opportunity and, boy, has he. Superb against the Scots, sublime against the Welsh and in situ again for the latest date with the English.
“To be honest, I felt like I’d nothing to lose, really,” he explained. “I’d been in and out a few times over the years and I’m getting to the point now where most of my competition for places is younger than me — apart from Tommy — and the competition is fierce.
“I’ve chatted about it with a couple of the other boys and on the wing it’s probably more competitive than a lot of other areas so whenever you get a chance you just have to take it. I’ve been really pleased with how it has gone in the past couple of weeks.”
Trimble’s impact has been all the more impressive for the fact that, despite the deserved plaudits that have winged their way to him this last month, Ireland haven’t exactly played swashbuckling rugby in winning two from two.
Though he claimed the opening try against Scotland, his impact has been made, for the most part, thanks to a willingness to work — by making his tackles, chasing kicks and being solid under the high ball.
Basic stuff? Sure, but rewind to the start of the Wales game and think how his hit on the gargantuan George North was met with a roar that swept around Ballsbridge. Not to be sneezed at.
A result of his standing in the last-chance saloon? “I don’t want to be too dramatic about the whole thing but there was a little bit of that. I’m not at the point now where it’s last chance but I’m fed up going in and under-performing in a green shirt compared with how I perform in a white shirt.
“I just want to get out there, work hard, do my homework before the game. Just know everything, prepare myself as best I can and just not be as concerned as maybe I have been in the past.
“Just get out and try and impose myself.”
There was certainly a sense at times in the past that he didn’t enjoy his international rugby, that maybe it was too much for him, and that extended to the crowd whenever a pass was dropped or a tackle missed. No more.
He spoke yesterday of how much fun he is having and how comfortable he feels in this environment after the ‘turbulence’ of previous years where he dipped in and out of the squad like a kid would a jar of honey.
Being older makes you wiser after all and it isn’t hard to imagine that he will see some of himself in Jonny May and Jack Nowell, the two young England wingers with five caps between them, when the sides take to Twickenham tomorrow.
May is the man designated to patrol his wing, in theory anyway, and the zippy Gloucester wing offers a very different proposition to the beefy duo of North and Alex Cuthbert from two weeks’ back.
“Jack Nowell is exactly the same. Both of them are rapid. I don’t know if Jonny May is as young as Jack Nowell. He is fairly young, fairly enthusiastic, decent footwork, very pacy, very strong as well.”
Different prospect, same approach: no regrets.
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