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Craig Gilroy has star role on big stage

By Michael Sadlier

The overall impression was of a job done, with Saturday's closing challenge in the autumn series against the Wallabies already muscling in on most thoughts in the immediate aftermath of seeing off the Georgians.

Another victory this weekend will provide Ireland coach Joe Schmidt with a complete set of wins in this series though, if achieved, few will recall Saturday's 49-7 result should it come to having added Australia to the already felled South Africa.

Nor indeed was there too much being invested in Ireland's six-try triumph raising Schmidt's squad rise to third in the IRB world rankings though, in truth, that had only come about because of defeats at the weekend by England and Australia, which saw them both lose ranking points to drop below the Irish.

Beating Australia - now coached by Michael Cheika who oversaw Leinster prior to Schmidt - was already featuring as part of Craig Gilroy's post-match outlook when the 23-year-old shared his thoughts about Georgia.

"It was great to get the win against Georgia but we need to put it to bed now and focus on Australia," he said.

Saturday was the Ulster player's first game for Ireland since the close of the 2013 Six Nations which had seen the wheels come off for Declan Kidney's time in charge.

Largely thanks to injury and then loss of form, it had also seemingly stalled Gilroy's promising looking international career which had opened with his memorable Test debut with a dazzling try against Argentina in the autumn series of 2012.

That November day in Dublin undoubtedly featured in his thoughts at some point as he prepared to play at Dublin's Aviva on Saturday.

It must have been frustrating for him not to have really been given an opportunity to show his finishing ability on his first game back at this level for over a year-and-a-half.

"I wished I had got my hands on the ball a little bit more," Gilroy admitted after winning his sixth Ireland cap.

"But sometimes it is not all about the glamour, you just have to roll the sleeves up and do the hard work, that's what Joe was looking for from me in the training week, chasing balls and making tackles."

Such is the way under Schmidt. You graft and you stick with the game-plan.

Gilroy added: "But I really enjoyed it and it is a fantastic feeling being back in Dublin and playing at the Aviva."

Though he didn't manage to score, Gilroy certainly did plenty of work off the ball and made sure that when he got it, something of use was delivered to the overall effort. Playing for Schmidt is about striking a balance; showing what you can deliver as an individual finisher while also operating as a model professional for the team.

"You obviously want to put your hand up and show what you can do," Gilroy said.

"But at the same time Joe is very team orientated. You need to play in a way that helps the guy beside you.

"It is important to get that happy medium right and I wish I'd have got my hands on the ball more but, in terms of a team effort, I tried to do what was best for the team."

He did, though, get the ball and generally put those chances to good use in the creation of territory for the side and in helping to carve out Felix Jones's first try.

"There were a few moves that are planned where I come off the wing and I really like to get my hands on the ball and look for work."

His kick-chase game may not have necessarily grabbed too much attention before, but he has worked hard on that aspect of his play and did achieve success yesterday as Ireland began to turn the screw on the Georgians.

"It was just off the cuff and I saw a bit of space in behind and went after it," he stated.

"That was the detail we talked about before.

"So once I got to where the ball was, and once they had gathered it, I had to make that follow up tackle, and when I made that tackle and put him into touch that set up a good platform for us."

He knows that unseating Simon Zebo or Tommy Bowe for Saturday's Test with Australia will simply not happen unless somebody breaks down in training, but Gilroy is pragmatic enough to appreciate that he just has to try and impress Schmidt.

And back at Ulster, he must also use Andrew Trimble's injury-enforced absence to keep himself in the frame for selection while hoping that he can do enough to hold on and get regular starts for his province which, in turn, will do his international prospects no harm either.

"Andrew is injured at the minute but I have to take my chance when I get it and show what I can do."

On yesterday's evidence there is definitely no doubting his desire to work.

Belfast Telegraph

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