Ulster wing Andrew Trimble: It's my final chance
Ulster wing Andrew Trimble admits that he may be drinking in the last-chance saloon in terms of his future as an international rugby player.
Tomorrow, the 29-year-old will be making his first Six Nations start since 2011 and, in his own words, it's up to him what he makes of a chance that has come his way a result of injuries to Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls coupled with the fact that Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo require more game-time having been side-lined.
Following yesterday's team announcement, Trimble was brutally honest about what is required of him now.
"It's about making that step up," he said. "There have been opportunities in the past that I've missed out on and fortunately now I've got the chance. If I don't take this opportunity then it's my own fault.
"I think I just want to put myself under a bit of pressure, but at the same time just try and relax, do what I do well and then get out there and be physical, get my leg drive going, make a few hits and chase balls.
"That's what my game is based around and hopefully that might be something that suits this game quite well."
Back in November, Trimble sought then-new Ireland coach Joe Schmidt's advice on what he needed to do if he was to resurrect his ailing international career.
In pin-pointing areas in need of improvement, the straight-talking New Zealander did so in such a way that left Trimble feeling encouraged rather than deflated. Big difference. Good man-management.
Having taken the advice in the spirit in which it was intended, tomorrow he returns to the Six Nations stage his many admirers in Ulster had feared he might never grace again.
Trimble admitted that his status as an Ulster player had always been crucial in his bad times with Ireland.
"I love playing for Ulster so that's something that I always went back to and I found a lot of comfort in that – just getting involved and doing what I feel like I can do, making a big impact and making a big difference for Ulster when things weren't going right for Ireland," he said.
"Whether in the past coaches picked me or not is not really my business. If I get picked I'll go out there and try and do what I do well. If not I'll come back to Ulster and try and do it there.
"I'd say at one stage it maybe frustrated me and I had to sort of re-establish a mindset that, regardless of how selection goes with Ireland, I'm always going to try – whether I'm playing for Ulster or Ireland – and have the same approach and be excited by the prospect."
Yesterday, having just been named in the team to face Scotland, he was asked if he felt he was a better player as a result of having heeded what Schmidt told him.
"Yeah I think so," he said. "I think even over the last two or three years I've got better and better, and Joe coming in puts a bit of an emphasis on very, very small details – your kick-chase, your reception, your leg drive, your ball placement, your fight.
"All these sort of things that you sort of glance over, you know, 'that's a ball carry'. But he splits it up into half-a-dozen different things and it's important to look after all those small things."
When asked how he had felt when Schmidt told him he was in tomorrow's starting line-up, there was a broad beamer of a smile on the fair-haired winger's face as he said: "Aw, that was a massive shot in the arm.
And clearly in a relaxed mood he quickly followed that up by saying: "It's a bit of an Eddie expression that, isn't it?" – a reference to O'Sullivan, the Ireland coach who gave Trimble the first of his 50 caps in November 2005.
There was no attempt on Trimble's part to deny that, as recently as November, he had feared his international career might be over when he was omitted from the Ireland squad for the Guinness Series. Clearly there were media elements who thought so, too, for he was promptly recruited as a pundit.
Recalling that situation, he joked: "I think I bumped into a few of you in the autumn in the media room and I thought I'd maybe be on that side in the future!
"But I think the way I see myself, I just keep working hard and if things are going well with Ulster – and I feel like I've created a bit of an impact with Ulster, got going, got my tail up, produced a decent impact on the pitch – I think that's really contributed to the team and I think that momentum has just brought me to a point now where I've put myself in contention."
Do not expect to see him waiting for tomorrow's game to come to him. He has vowed "to force my way into it, just to be bullish, to be confrontational, just to make sure I'm dominant, vocally, and physically (to) just get my hands on the ball, whether it be carry or distribute – just create an impact and get in there."