AS SO OFTEN tends to be the case, the debate surrounding a new out-half gobbles up the lion’s share of commentary leading up to an international.
Outside Paddy Jackson this Sunday will be his fellow uncapped provincial team-mate; a man who has probably impressed many more people in his limited outings this season.
Compared to the easy confidence that only a number 10 can exude so effortlessly, Luke Marshall better fits the stereotype of a debutant.
He sat alongside his captain in Carton House looking a shadow of the player who so comfortably breezed around Thomond Park during his first big chance at the senior squad in November.
“It’s pretty surreal having your name on a starting team,” said the nervous, but gleeful centre. “I’m looking forward to Sunday and doing the business.”
No doubt he will welcome the move below the radar, but perhaps the reduced fanfare of his ascension to the international ranks is down to the fact that it has been well-signalled.
On Tuesday, backs coach Les Kiss spoke in glowing terms of a centre with excellent footwork in both attack and defence, and a superb pass off either hand. There were other possibilities to fill in for Gordon D’Arcy, but Kiss has been an admirer of this particular skill-set since Marshall was the stand-out player in an underage Leinster/Ulster selection playing to officially open the Aviva Stadium.
He may be inexperienced, but Marshall is no fool. He knows that facing Scotland in Murrayfield will bear no comparison to facing a combined selection from Munster and Connacht or, indeed, a sub-strength Fiji with no world ranking points on the line.
He is intent on attacking the opportunity with as much gusto as he did against the Pacific islanders.
“I’ll definitely enjoy it as much”says the Ballymena boy, “I think it will be a lot tighter. I think that game was quite broken. Scotland are a better team as well, so I think it will be a much harder fought game but I’ll still enjoy it just as much.”
He will not be the first or the last centre to be giddy with anticipation of forming a midfield with Brian O’Driscoll. Keith Earls today said he gets goosebumps looking at some of the things the former captain does on the field, while Jamie Roberts calls him “a massive learning curve”.
As ever, O’Driscoll has been imparting some wisdom to his young apprentice.
“He’s been good this week.” Marshall says of the man 13 years his senior. “He’s helped me adjust a couple of things and I’m sure it will make it a lot easier to have him playing alongside me.
“I’ve been watching Brian play since I was nine, probably.” He added to a shoulder-shaking chuckle from those seated alongside him.
“Back then I would never have thought I would play with him. It will be nice to line up beside him, definitely.
“I think having that experience, and how good a player he is, he will probably have a calming influence on me. I know if anything happens in the game he is there and he will be able to take a bit of heat off me I suppose.”