Although he was at home in his own bed last night, Paddy Wallace probably didn’t sleep too well.
This morning he was due back in Dublin where, on Tuesday, Ireland coach Declan Kidney named the 15 players who will start against South Africa in the four-match Guinness Series.
Kidney also confirmed six of the his seven replacements, leaving Wallace, fellow-Ulsterman Andrew Trimble and Munster’s Keith Earls to sweat over which of them would provide the midfield/back three cover on Saturday.
Regardless of Kidney’s decision on this occasion, Wallace’s versatility makes him a key member of the squad for what will be a long haul — an unprecedented 13 international matches followed by the 2011 World Cup.
Ireland will need a big squad to see them through four Guinness Series matches this month, five RSB 6 Nations games in February/March and four World Cup warm-up fixtures against Scotland, France — home and away — and England next August before finally jetting off for New Zealand.
“Declan and I have discussed this and we’re both agreed that 12 probably is my best position,” Wallace says.
On Saturday, however, that berth will be occupied by Gordon D’Arcy who wins his 50th Irish cap.
“It maybe makes you more selectable if, in a tight call, you’re able cover a couple of positions,” said Wallace. “That’s why I’ve been asked to play a couple of games for Ulster at 10 and hopefully that versatility will stand me in good stead further down the line.
“The bottom line is that you’d play prop for you country if asked and a guy who can cover a couple of positions offers options, I guess.
“Obviously a coach would prefer to include players where they are happpiest, but first and foremost he has to choose what he feels is best for the overall strength of the squad.”
At 31, Wallace has more rugby-playing years behind than before him. But he is satisfied with his game at this stage, describing it as “pretty consistent”.
“Overall this year I’ve been pretty happy, particularly as I feel there’s more to come from me,” he added.
Wallace admitted that when the Irish squad of 30 assembled last week “there were a few wee nerves as we knew it would be trimmed.”
Whatever the outcome of today’s cut to 22, Wallace will have a big part to play in the international season.