Six Nations: Andrew Trimble fit to be the king of France once again
Ireland step up their bid for a third successive Six Nations title in Paris today. Belfast Telegraph Rugby Correspondent Jonathan Bradley talks to Andrew Trimble who has happy memories of the French capital
As Andrew Trimble lowers himself into an ice bath, forces himself through another recovery session, or goes through any number of stretches intended just to keep his body in one piece, the accompanying grimaces come despite the Ulster star knowing this is all part and parcel of the daily routine for the modern professional.
The sport has never been more attritional and there is no more physical stage than the Test arena.
Against Wales last weekend Trimble was at his abrasive best in defence, felling considerably larger men when they attacked his channel.
While his efforts drew deserved praise, especially his try-saving intervention on 6ft 5in, 118kg lock Alun Wyn Jones, the exertions left the 31-year-old feeling as if he’d “been in a car-crash.”
The Coleraine man will be in Joe Schmidt’s side to take on France in Paris today but, with just six days between games, couldn’t train until Thursday thanks to the physical toll of the clash with Ireland’s Celtic cousins.
While pundits George Hook and Tom McGurk bemoaned the increasingly gladiatorial nature of the sport after watching the 16-16 draw, Trimble sees the lengthy recovery period after games as something of an occupational hazard.
“I’ve been struggling with my shoulder a little bit but it’s not collisions, it’s really just passing,” he said at Ireland’s Carton House base in Kildare just before departing for Paris.
“It’s just one of those things, you have to just get on with it.
“That game against Wales, because I haven’t been involved in a while, it feels like you’ve been in a car crash.
“My shoulder was hanging off me, everything else is just wrecked and you’re looking round and a lot of guys are struggling with knocks and bangs.
“The backs took the brunt of it for some reason. You’ve got to get yourself up and be ready for the next game.
“I feel infinitely better than two days ago even. You bounce back. It’s unpleasant but you get better.”
It’s an attitude that is more than understandable, for Trimble knows that these big occasions are to be cherished.
Players are a long time retired as the saying goes.
Ulster’s record try-scorer and appearance maker was handed a glimpse into his post-rugby life last year when he spent a frustrating 10 months on the sidelines with a persistent toe injury.
The slow recovery, which ultimately saw him controversially dropped from Schmidt’s World Cup panel last autumn, was a huge irritation even if he found plenty to fill his time.
Ulster’s representative with the Irish Rugby Union Players’ Association, he began studying finance through Hibernia College, became an ambassador for Oxfam and even took to restoring a pair of classic Mini Coopers with team mate Iain Henderson.
Most importantly he and his wife Anna, a GP who he married in 2009, became parents for the first time when baby Jack was born in July.
Winning his 60th cap today, much has changed then since his last visit to Paris.
Still, that game two years ago will be on his mind when he lines out once again at the Stade de France, the scene of one of the finest moments of his career.
With the Six Nations title up for grabs that March evening in 2014, Trimble capped off a superb campaign with a try in the 22-20 win that delivered a first title since 2009.
It’s a determination to forge similar memories that will compel him forward today.
“The adrenaline, the excitement, being in Paris, the potential of doing again what we did two years ago,” he said.
“It just drives you on,” he added.
“I look back on Paris 2014 with very, very fond memories. I look back on previous years with not so many pleasant memories.
“ I think Paris, for me in particular and a lot of the guys, it’s quite exciting and it’s a good place to go.
“We have the potential to have an amazing weekend but it’s extremely daunting as well.
“Just the threat that France pose, we’ll have to have our wits about us.
“I think we go there with a healthy mindset in terms of the confidence of what we can produce, but just a small bit of a fear factor which I think is a healthy way to approach it,” he said.
His own battle with sevens convert Virimi Vakatawa will be one key to the contest, Trimble knowing that halting the rampaging, naturalised Fijian who scored on debut last week is likely to come at an even greater physical cost than his tackles on Alun Wyn Jones six days ago.
“(Vakatawa), he’s a guy who is the same size but, no disrespect to Alan Wyn Jones, this guy is incredibly dynamic.
“The power in his legs, he’s going to be a handful, he really is,” Trimble said.
“I think he showed against the Italians, if there is any lack of communication or lack of togetherness, he’s going to be really hard work.
“But that is only one of their wingers and Teddy Thomas is the other one and he’s a big threat as well.
“To be honest they have threats all through their back line and will be a handful. As good as our defensive performance was last weekend, I think we’ll have to step it up again.”
With the ball, improvement will also be required as Ireland look to add a clinical edge that was sometimes lacking as they racked up the phases against Wales.
“I think we have to threaten defences more,” Trimble added.
“We’re going to potentially this weekend find a defence that isn’t quite as hard so we have to attack slightly differently.
“There’s a couple of plays are in this week that weren’t last week.
“People talk about defences winning games but effectively it’s tries so we’ve got to get over the line a few times.”
Casting his mind back two seasons, Trimble knows he is capable of just that.