Yesterday’s media duties at Ireland’s Kildare team base provided Andrew Trimble with perhaps the most apt reference point on his return from exile to a starting slot in Joe Schmidt’s first Six Nations game in charge.
Omitted from the Kiwi’s first squad last November, the Ulster winger was called in as cover for injuries five days later but he played no part in any of the three match-day squads and was on broadcasting duties in the stands for the All Black game.
“I bumped into a few of you in the autumn in the media room and I thought I’d maybe be on that side in the future,” he said on the back of the litany of injuries to other wingers that facilitated his surprise elevation to the side.
“I feel I’ve created a bit of an impact with Ulster, got going, got my tail up, produced a decent impact on the pitch. I think that’s really contributed to the team and I think that momentum has just brought me to a point now where I’ve put myself in contention.”
That it has. Trimble has long been a fan favourite in Ravenhill but his Ireland career has ebbed more than flowed and he will wear a green jersey for just the second time since November of 2012 when he faces the Scots tomorrow.
He doesn’t need to be told his Test career hasn’t amounted to what it could have been, even if he has 50 caps to his credit and was a regular who appeared 16 times as recently as the 2011/12 World Cup season.
His try record isn’t too shabby but of the dozen he has scored only two have been against the game’s true heavyweights — the SANZAR sides or England and France — and his last in that bracket came back in 2006 against S Africa.
There is an acceptance his Test future is in his own hands again — “If I don’t take this opportunity then it’s my own fault” — and he needs to grab it with Tommy Bowe and Luke Fitzgerald expected to return soon from injuries.
It will certainly take more than one start in the midst of an injury epidemic for the impression to dissipate that Trimble is not among Schmidt’s favoured tramline operators but the coach has done his bit to improve his chances.
Schmidt sat down with Trimble some time ago and left him in no doubt as to what it was he needed to do to improve his chances of playing for Ireland. Aggression, kick-chases, leg-drives and ball placement were all mentioned as areas for attention.
Trimble took notice and, though he is eager not to forget the attributes that got him this far, he will have more opportunity to demonstrate an improved work rate under Schmidt than might have been the case with Declan Kidney.
“In theory, it should suit me better. But, it’s a lot more difficult than you think, you know, knowing the right time to come in. It’s difficult out there. If you don’t hear the call you don’t know what’s going on.
“It’s a vocal thing for me as well, being able to realise where the opportunities are to get ball and to make sure whenever you see that opportunity that you dominate it, go and get your hands on it.”
Go get it. Not a bad motto for him, all told.
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