Ireland v South Africa: Birthday boy Court wins new admirers
On what was a day of major landmarks, chief amongst them being the first international rugby match at the new Lansdowne Road plus a 100th Irish cap for replacement fly-half and almost-saviour Ronan O’Gara, it was hardly surprising that the birthday of another of those who joined the fray from the bench was largely overlooked.
Ulster prop Tom Court had his 30th on Saturday.
But more important than that, his performance between the 50th and 80th minutes ought now to have brought him to a more prominent place in coach Declan Kidney’s forward planning.
Court’s ability to scrummage effectively against controversial Zimbabwean-born Tendai Mtawarira, the Springboks’ 17st 6lbs loosehead, was in marked contrast to what the man dubbed ‘The Beast’ had done to the formidable figure of Munster’s giant, Tony Buckley.
His work in broken play was good, too, as Ireland finally came good in the closing quarter thanks in no small measure to his arrival on the Aviva stage.
Having nosed ahead of Ireland’s veteran tighthead, 102 times-capped John Hayes who is now 37, Court’s star may now finally be on the rise.
But Court, a remarkably quiet man given his imposing physical presence — 6ft 1in and 19st 2lb — will not be getting his hopes up too much.
Experience has taught him not to do that.
Before the announcement of the team and replacements to face South Africa he remarked: “All I can do is keep trying to play well for Ulster and work hard in training when I’m with the Ireland squad.
“If I’m doing those things then after that it’s up to others.”
In choosing him for the bench against South Africa, Kidney cited Court’s adaptability as the reason for his inclusion.
The Ulster loosehead’s ability to perform equally well at three makes him a very useful asset for Ireland as was proven on Saturday evening.