Patience looks to have paid off for Connacht’s South African born prop forward Brett Wilkinson, whotomorrow night will be playing for a place in Ireland’s party for the tour to New Zealand.
Wilkinson lines out for Ireland in a prep game against the Barbarians in Bristol and rightly views the game as a final trial.
“I’m just concentrating on the match for now, but I would like to think I might make the trip to New Zealand as a result.
“Although the tour is immediate, I try not to think that far down the line. It’s an opportunity for a lot of guys, who have caps and some who don’t have caps, to put their best foot forward.”
Wilkinson confirmed when he arrived in Ireland back in 2006, it was for the long haul, with the aim of qualifying through the three-yearresidency rule and playing in the green jersey.
“I was certainly here for the long haul, I wanted to play international rugby and that has been my total dream.”
Having already played for the Irish Wolfhounds, he has had a taste and he liked the experience. He said: “You come here and don’t know what toexpect really, I was just 22 and one thing I said was that I was going to give it a go, give it my all and work hard. That’s what it is coming down to really, working hard, sticking at it and to getting good coaching at the provinces.”
Wilkinson’s ability to play both sides of the scrum could make him a prized asset in New Zealand, although hedescribes himself as essentially a loose head.
“Moving across doesn’t come naturally, they’re very different roles. I wouldn’t say I worked on it massively in the past but I am working towards it now. I wouldn’t be that comfortable playing tight head but with a little practice and coaching from the likes of Greg Feek and Dan McFarland in Connacht, I am going to work on that and see what happens, certainly it is a good trait in a player to be able to play both sides. They involve two different techniques; on the loose head you’re trying to head up and not get pinned down where a tight head is trying to lock the scrum down.”
Wilkinson smiles when trying to explain that he was once a scrum half and flanker until he bulked up to the point where prop was more suited to his frame. He could be described as a typical heavyweight Springbok forward, but that’s to ignore the rave reviews he gets regularly from Connacht fans as he engages in a huge amount of play in the loose. As well as attempting to inflict physical punishment on opponents at scrum time, Wilkinson likes to show he has some other rugby skills too.
He might get such opportunity given expectations of an expansive game against the Barbarians, but this time Wilkinson will be happy to prove his scrummaging capabilities to Irish coach Declan Kidney. That’s his main focus in his bid to book a seat on the plane to the southern hemisphere.
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