Opportunity wings its way to Trimble after O'Driscoll blow
While Ireland's tour of Argentina this summer was pretty much instantly forgettable, it proved to be something of a watershed for Andrew Trimble.
With six tries in just 16 caps, including touchdowns against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, Trimble's impact as a devastating strike runner in Eddie O'Sullivan's squad has never been in doubt.
But it was during the tour in June, when the first choice side from the Six Nations Championship had been left behind in Ireland, that the 22-year-old suddenly felt it was time to become more of a presence in the Irish squad.
The absence of Brian O'Driscoll and Shane Horgan in particular had a significant impact on the Ballymena player.
"I noticed on tour that when they weren't there, naturally someone had to take their places and not just playing in their shirts but filling their roles," said Trimble.
"It is about taking on more responsibility. That is something I need as part of my development to improve my game and make me more of a leader, to boss those sort of situations.
"That's why I admire those guys so much because they hold so much sway. Whenever they talk people listen and that's where I want to get to."
With both O'Driscoll (fractured sinus) and Horgan (knee ligament damage) expected to be ruled out for Ireland's opening World Cup pool game, Trimble may have to get there sooner rather than later.
Tonight, in the historic match against Italy at Ravenhill, represents a massive opportunity - not only to prove to O'Sullivan that he is a top-grade midfield option, but he is capable of stamping his authority on the game.
Despite playing on the wing many times for Ulster and Ireland, he admits wearing the number 13 shirt for Ireland, and at Ravenhill, will be a special night for him.
"It doesn't get any better for me," said Trimble, who has always seen outside centre as his best position. "Playing for Ireland wearing the number 13 shirt and at Ravenhill as well is a dream come true.
"They are big old shoes to fill at the same time. I would say there would be a fair bit of pressure, but we will just go out there and see what happens.
"I think over the last couple of weeks we have built on our performances. In the Bayonne game there were bits and pieces of really good stuff.
"Hopefully we can build on that and put an 80-minute performance against the Italians.
"I have chatted to Brian a bit and we have been chatting as a backline about different ways of breaking them down. I think we know what sort of headset we have got going into it and where we are looking exploit things."
Midfield partner D'Arcy admits he will have to make a number of adjustments to accommodate Trimble, but insists the young Ulsterman is ready to bloom.
"I think people forget his age," said D'Arcy. "I can only compare to myself. I wasn't half as far along as him when I was his age. His learning curve has been huge. He has probably tapered off a little now and the last five or ten per cent is always hard to get.
"But his all-round game has developed massively and he is probably a more mature player and not as shy around the place as well. Trimby and I have played about three or four times in the midfield together, and at certain stages I defend at 13 and he is on the right wing so we are just moving in a channel. So we know each other pretty well."
D'Arcy declared that with tonight's game being the last chance to fine tune their game before the World Cup kicks-off, there would be no excuses for the team.
Trimble concurs that a big performance is required against a side that coach Eddie O'Sullivan felt was the most physical in the Six Nations Championship last season.
"This is our last opportunity before the World Cup," added Trimble. "If we can't get our game up there now, the chances are it won't be in time. We have to be hitting the ground running tonight. It will be a proud night for the Ulster boys in the team, but we won't be relying too heavily on the Ravenhill factor.
"It will be special and something to enjoy, but I think that will probably be it. We will then just get our heads down and get some hard work. And maybe towards the end score some tries, but sometimes it doesn't quite work out like that!
"It is strange to be going into a World Cup with such high expectations, especially when you look at our group and how difficult it is going to be.
"But we are very confident that we are as good as people think we are. We just have to prove that in France."