IN YEARS TO come we may look back at the lark in Thomond Park and thank the all-or-nothing Fijians for visiting Ireland.
No caps were handed out and Fiji did in fact leave with nothing but Craig Gilroy seized his opportunity and will test himself against Argentina at a close to capacity Aviva Stadium tomorrow.
Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip sounded genuinely made up for the Ulster winger when TheScore.ie caught up with him at Carton House following the team announcement but he must wish the 53-0 win over Fiji was internationally recognised.
It was not, however, so the captain must face questions again about Ireland’s five-Test-match losing streak.
He believes that the one change – Gilroy for Andrew Trimble – is a vindication of the team that looked eminently comfortable against South Africa for 40 minutes. Heaslip said:
The team that started that day came close to beating South Africa but we didn’t play for the full, 80 minutes and that’s what you’ve got to do against quality sides like South Africa.
“We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us, in Argentina, but we know that we have to play for 80 minutes otherwise we won’t come close.”
The theory seems simple but Ireland have failed to put it into practice on the four occasions they have led a rugby game at half-time in the past nine months.
Eight tries against a beleaguered Fijian side have also failed to stop the questions about an Irish attack that has is struggling to cross the whitewash when it matters.
Heaslip points out that significant ‘inroads’ were made into the Springbok half two weeks ago but scores out of hand never looked likely.
“We got some good tries last week,” he said, “so there was sign for encouragement and I think if we got into similar positions this week, we would be able to take those opportunities.”
Asked what the Irish supporters would notice on the field as a sign of an Irish side bringing positive training sessions to bear on a match, Heaslip tells them to watch for calm focus, setting up attacking platforms for the backs and good structure.
If that does not sell the last of the tickets on sale, Heaslip talks about the dance moves Simon Zebo has brought to proceedings in the Irish camp and Gilroy’s electrifying moves. He commented:
People probably look at him and don’t think of him as a strong guy but, again and again, he breaks tackles, wrestles out of tackles and keeps going. He’s got electric feet as well and knows how to score a try.
“Give him the ball and he can cause teams a lot of problems.”
*TheScore.ie will be covering Ireland v Argentina live from the Aviva Stadium on Saturday from 1.30pm.