PADDY WALLACE has not given up hope of featuring as out-half again for Ireland or Ulster.
The 30-year old utility back has had to concentrate on duties at centre for his province in recent times with both Niall O’Connor and, this season, Ian Humphreys jumping ahead of him in the queue.
Despite that, Wallace was regarded as Ronan O’Gara’s chief deputy on international duty for a number of years until recent times, though Jonathan Sexton has surely assumed that mantle after his Heineken Cup heroics last term.
“I’ve played 10 all my life, up until maybe four years ago when I switched to 12 so those basic instincts are still in me,” said Wallace.
“So, if I’m called on to play there I’ll be happy to do so. Declan is a good communicator and knows exactly what’s going on in terms of those sorts of issues with players. He keeps on top of that. We chat about it regularly so it’s no great issue.”
Playing at 10 for his province would undoubtedly help in that regard, but Humphreys has started the season in the box seat after a difficult period for the former Leicester Tiger at Ravenhill, and delivered a man-of-the-match display last weekend in the shock win away to the Ospreys.
“Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get much game time yet this season with one thing and another but it’s up to Brian (McLaughlin),” said Wallace. “I’m going to play wherever the team needs me so, if I’m called upon to play 10, I’ll be happy to do that.”
These days Wallace would gladly accept a start anywhere along the back line. His competitive exposure this season has been limited to 50 minutes as a replacement in the opening Magners League defeat to the Dragons.
His last full game came in April so, of all the Irish internationals wrapped in cotton wool thus far this season, Wallace is more eager than most to get back playing. “I got sick just at the end of the pre-season. I spent a week in bed and lost four kilos so I had to start working that back. I came off the bench at full-back of all places against the Dragons unfortunately and that was a bad day.
“Then I was rested for the Ospreys game. It was fantastic for the guys to go there and win, to get that monkey off our back, winning in Wales for the first time in a long time and against a top side. That has reinvigorated the confidence that we built up in pre-season when we won a few games. So yeah, I’m itching to go. I can’t wait.”
Things have been tweaked for Ireland’s internationals this season who, in previous years, disappeared into a week-long camp at the start of every campaign.
This time Kidney has opted to hold three mini-camps in Belfast, Limerick and Dublin between the months of July and September and Wallace is a covert to their value.
“Yeah, absolutely. These camps are an opportunity to focus on what we can improve on while not forgetting what we did very well last year. If we can add five per cent to our game hopefully it will make a difference.
“We’re not going to be able to go out with the same style of play and win those matches. You’re going to lose the odd close one. We were lucky enough to pull through and win all of them last year but we need to focus on things we have to improve on.”
Brian O’Driscoll echoed those very thoughts this week and one glance at this year’s schedule of matches would make it impossible to disagree.
“It’s a much tougher year in terms of fixtures. The away games are against two big Six Nations teams (France and England), they’re going to be very tough but there are opportunities.”
Meanwhile, Connacht have named a 24-man squad for their Magners League clash against Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground tomorrow night (7pm). Props Brett Wilkinson and Robbie Morris, who missed the trip to Edinburgh, remain doubts.
CONNACHT (squad): A Browne, F Carr, S Cronin, G Duffy, A Flavin, J Hagan, C Higgins, I Keatley, R Loughney, K Matthews, M McCarthy, M McComish, R Morris, J Muldoon, F Murphy, T Nathan, M Nikora, J O'Connor, R Ofisa, C O'Loughlin, B Tuohy, B Upton, B Wilkinson, A Wynne.
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