By Claire Glancy
“Get bitter or get better”
Andrew Trimble has had more heartaches than highs since making his Ireland debut in 2005. He has won 55 caps since then but wasn’t part of the 2009 Grand Slam squad and was dropped ahead of the first Test at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. In the autumn the Ulsterman’s only involvement in the International series was as a media pundit.
Then a succession of injuries and good form for Ulster resulted in him getting the nod for the Six Nations opener and he’s never looked back. “Get bitter or get better” was Trimble’s attitude. His resilience and determination has won him many admirers in this Championship, not least Joe Schmidt, who dubbed him the ‘unsung hero’ following a string of strong performances.
You win nothing without luck
Everyone needs a little luck. Ireland arrived in Paris with destiny in their own hands. But when Jonathan Sexton missed a couple of kicks and Dimitri Szarzewski was awarded his try despite a knock on, there was a sense that maybe this was not going to be Ireland’s day after all. In the final minutes when Les Bleus had Ireland under pressure and an overlap on the right wing a France try seemed unstoppable.
Damien Chouly crossed the whitewash but Vincent Debaty’s pass had gone forward. For Irish fans, that referral to the video referee seemed to take a lifetime with flashbacks to the New Zealand defeat all too fresh in the mind. You could be the best team in the world with the perfect game plan but what can you do if the other team gets lucky? Just ask England, who for a split second must have thought the Championship was theirs.
No satisfaction in glorious defeats
Those days are long gone. The so-called ‘golden generation’ of Irish rugby managed to win just one Six Nations title in a decade and only six players who were in the 2009 Grand Slam squad were in the matchday twenty-three that beat France on Saturday.
So for the majority of the current crop this has been a first taste of success in their international careers and under Joe Schmidt their appetite and expectations will increase. Known in New Zealand as ‘Mr Rugby’ the Kiwi coach told me his biggest fear is losing. So winning is a must, no matter how it comes. The performance in Paris might not have been pretty but the victory was beautiful.
Sometimes fairytales do come true
Relieved of the captaincy, sent to the sin bin in Ireland’s first ever Six Nations defeat in Rome, fifth place finish… is it any wonder Brian O’Driscoll gave the people what they wanted and stayed on for ‘one more year’? Now he bows out a world record holder for his number of International caps and centre partnership with Gordon D’Arcy, as well as being the most capped player and top try scorer in the Six Nations. It’s a fairytale ending fit for Ireland’s rugby king.
There is life after BOD
Competition for Ireland at outside centre? There’s a question that’s never been raised in my whole adult life. Who will step into BOD’s shoes? Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Darren Cave and Jared Payne are all in contention. But until Schmidt has had time to try and test them, we won’t know who has the unenviable task of stepping into BOD’s boots.
The uncertainty does not just lie in that position though. Stephen Ferris announced his return to the rugby pitch on Friday night by driving Scarlets winger Kristian Phillips back twenty yards. If his body holds up, it is going to be a huge battle between him and Peter O’Mahony for the blindside spot. Sean O’Brien has yet to return, along with Donnacha Ryan, Dan Tuohy and the plethora of wingers who have also suffered injuries in the last few months. That’s not to mention those who are healthy but just waiting in the flanks for a call up. After years of living in the shadows of the provinces’ successes, it’s an exciting time for the Irish national team.