Andrew Trimble ready to make his long-awaited return
Having not played any rugby since October, Andrew Trimble may joke that he's the only person who remembers the 2014 Six Nations but the Ulster winger is serious when he says the tournament can provide the confidence to propel him towards the upcoming World Cup.
After coming in from the international wilderness following Joe Schmidt's ascension to head coach, Trimble was a star performer during the championship last year but, after adding two more caps on last summer's tour to Argentina, he has been kept out of the side since after suffering a toe injury on the eve of the Autumn Tests.
A setback in February ensured he would play no further part last season but he is now back to fitness, albeit lacking in game time, ahead of Ireland's World Cup warm-up series that begins against Wales next weekend.
While admitting to a feeling of relief after being named in the 45-strong extended panel last month, the 30-year-old never felt in danger of missing the tournament through injury.
"I'd not quite ever reached the point where I was rushing or thought I was really tight for time," he said.
"Just the way I was never going to be fit for the end of the season, so to make sure I had that window of four weeks to make sure I was fit for the start of pre-season and then five weeks of that to make sure you're there.
"I always had plenty of time, I just had to make sure I used that time wisely and be in as good a position as I can."
With the squad set to be trimmed to 31 names ahead of an August 31 deadline, Trimble knows that now is the time when he really has to prove to Schmidt that he is ready for the rigours of Test rugby, especially with such strong competition for the wing berths.
"The standard is so high. Every single winger in that squad is quality and playing good rugby.
"They're serious athletes and their skills are good so you're looking at them going, where can I get the edge on some of these guys and you're struggling to work it out.
"There's a lot of quality there, there's a lot of quality in Irish rugby at the minute. It's going in an unbelievably good direction at the minute and I want to be a part of that.
"The standard has moved on in the last six or seven months and I haven't been on the pitch so in some ways I've got to play catch-up and try to get in there and try to impress. I've to try to get a jersey on and try to impress."
The first chance to do so could come with the trip to Cardiff next Saturday but with so many vying for minutes on the field, opportunities to make a mark will be limited during the three fixtures before Schmidt is forced to cull 14 names.
"The squad is picked after the third one, and it's a good squad of 45 at the minute, so realistically you might get one game, maybe a 60 and a 20, I don't know but hopefully I'll get an opportunity.
"If I don't then I'll feel disappointed but, if I do, it's down to me and I'll have to take that chance.
"I'm looking forward to it, it's going to be difficult I think, going from not playing any rugby and having to perform on my first time out on the pitch again is a big ask but I'm up for it."
Any fear of rustiness can be offset by his most recent form in a green jersey while the 57-times capped Coleraine man has already been relatively pleased with his return to the paddock.
"For me personally, I know I can do it again. It was a big challenge for me in 2014 because it was the first time I thought I was a part of the centre of what we were doing and what we were achieving.
"I was contributing and I was doing my bit, and for me to go from having not done that to doing that, it's important that I have that to look back on.
"When something big is asked of me, when I need to execute roles and tasks, I can do it because I've done it before."
The question now for Trimble is, will he be doing it for Ireland come September?