Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Ireland v Samoa: Court has plenty of forward thinking

Aussie Tom Court believes he has what it takes to become a regular member of the Irish forward line but is taking nothing for granted
Aussie Tom Court believes he has what it takes to become a regular member of the Irish forward line but is taking nothing for granted

There were few redeeming features to be taken from Ireland’s depressing display against world champions South Africa.

But Australian-born Ulster prop Tom Court did his prospects of nailing down a first team place a power of good when coming on as a replacement for the injured Tony Buckley.

The overall scrummaging clearly improved on Court’s arrival and it clearly points to him having a more significant role in the weeks and months ahead.

The affable native Australian had every reason to be happy with his cameo.

But there’s little danger of him taking anything for granted.

“I feel my game has been steadily improving over the last two to three years so it’s a matter of being consistent and getting the basics right,” he said.

“Props like Tony Buckley and Cian Healy have a lot to offer around the pitch so the onus is on me to increase my workrate in that regard.

“Both Tony and Cian can be devastating at ruck time so it’s up to me to add as much as possible to my game.

“That means improving my ball carrying and making sure I get in all my tackles as well as being as disruptive to the opposition as possible.”

In his own understated way Court is genuinely thrilled to be starting against Samoa this Saturday afternoon.

It’s a sure sign that his performance against South Africa wasn’t lost on coach Declan Kidney.

There was a time when Court played most of his rugby at loose head, but more recently with Ulster he’s been figuring at tight head.

It’s got to the stage now where he has no real preference, but you sense he’s keen to add to his Irish caps.

When he first came to Ireland his only ambition was to play for Ulster, but the man who won his 10th Ireland cap against South Africa now appears very comfortable in the international arena.

When the call came to replace the injured Tony Buckley in the Aviva Stadium last Saturday he was determined to make the most of his opportunity.

“When you get pressed into action you ideally want to add something to the game and raise the tempo,” he added.

“My priority then was to reinforce the scrum and ensure we were getting quicker, cleaner ball at scrum time.

“I would like to think I achieved that to some degree, but I appreciate that I’ve still a lot of work to do on my game.”

Court’s openness and honesty is refreshing at a time when professional sport is so often driven by pure hype.

Another good showing against Samoa would put his name before the selectors with big games against both the All Blacks and Argentina still to come.

Court gave up a highly paid business job to come to Ulster so coming to these shores was a massive gamble.

But he hasn’t one single regret, insisting: “What I’ve achieved in rugby so far has been nothing short of a dream as far as I’m concerned.”

Court is now looking forward to playing alongside John Hayes again in the front row come Saturday at the Aviva.

“His recall is a massive bonus for us and it also offers us different options in terms of line-out jumping. I played with him last year against Fij and everything was fine. He may not be the most talkative man in the world, but there are so many things you can learn from him,” he added.

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