When Dan Tuohy scored a try just 70 seconds into his Test career, the sight of a galloping No.18 crossing the whitewash caused the Kiwi commentator on the day to exclaim: “Gee whizz, it’s a try for Shane Jennings.”
The man himself could understand the mix-up. Despite representing Ireland against the All Blacks, the Ulster lock was far from a household name. After all, just 12 months before taking on the sport’s most feared side in the green jersey, he had been playing in England’s second tier with the Exeter Chiefs.
A move to Ulster, bringing him into the provincial system having long been on the radar of the Irish Exiles, had come in the summer of 2009 with his first season at Ravenhill culminating in the start of a Test career that would see him win four of his first five caps against the All Blacks on their own patch.
“Getting called up like that was interesting,” he remembers now. “At the end of the season, the position I was in was that I’d been in a few camps, played in a few ‘A’ games, but I think if a full-strength team was going out there I wouldn’t have been called up.
“At the time, Paulie (Paul O’Connell) was playing with Donncha O’Callaghan and Donnacha Ryan was there too. It was only that autumn that Dev (Devin Toner) came into the mix.
“But Paulie and Donnacha Ryan didn’t travel. So it was myself, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll and Ed O’Donoghue.
“If everybody was fit I wouldn’t have been picked but once we got over, I kind of felt like I might be in with a shout, that it was probably between me and Ed, and that’s how it worked out.
“It was awkward because I was really good friends with Ed O’Donoghue.
“He was devastated that he wasn’t involved but fair play to him because he was still delighted for me. It was one of those ones that I didn’t want to be over-the-top in my celebrations, especially because you didn’t even know if you’d get on, or it could have been five minutes.”
As it was, Tuohy got on earlier than he’d ever anticipated, a first-half injury to Mick O’Driscoll seeing him called upon after only 34 minutes.
The only problem was that Ireland were already 38-0 down and were playing with 14 men after Jamie Heaslip’s early red card.
While Tuohy’s score a mere minute later was one of four Ireland scored that day, New Zealand ran in nine on their way to a 66-28 victory.
“It was all pretty surreal,” Tuohy says.
“It wasn’t so long ago I was playing in the Championship. The next thing you know, you’re playing the All Blacks.
“Rugby recently has been littered with these types of stories, Bradley Roberts going from Rainey (in the All-Ireland League) to playing the Springboks with the Wales squad is another. These things do happen but it was strange.
“At the time the magnitude of it all probably didn’t really sink in.
“But after the game I was buzzing a bit. I’d played okay, nothing special, but everyone else was absolutely devastated — we’d almost had 70 points put on us.
“Aside from my position where we were lacking a bit of depth, the rest of the squad was the heavy hitters. We had our top players playing.
“So it was a massively disappointing result for everyone and I was fighting the smile on my face leaving the stadium.
“Obviously I would have loved to have won the game, if we’d done that and I only got a minute it would have been nicer, but I was happy and had to be disappointed. It’s just a strange one.
“I think I had imposter syndrome to a certain degree because of how quickly it all happened for me.
“And then you realise that you’re comfortable in the scenario and realise you have the talent to be there.
“After that first cap I was out with a few of the senior players, Ronan O’Gara and David Wallace, and they’d buy me a few drinks for making my debut.
“Being an English guy, only having been in that environment for such a short period of time, that meant a lot to me.
“Hanging out with them, when you’re that age and you’re new to everything, they really made me feel a part of that group which, only a year on from winning a Grand Slam, had probably felt a little bit impenetrable.”
While Tuohy would come off the bench again against Australia two weeks later, it would then be another two years before he wore the green jersey again.
Again, it would be against the All Blacks in New Zealand. The 2012 tour, Ireland’s last before this current trip, is remembered for two things; the near-miss in the second Test when Declan Kidney’s side lost to a late Dan Carter drop goal in Christchurch, and the backlash a week later when the visitors were beaten 60-0, the worst defeat in their history.
“I’d played a lot for Ulster that year, and this is exactly what this group now will be experiencing, when you get to the end of those seasons, you’re a bit stretched, you’re a bit tired, and it’s difficult,” says Tuohy.
“It’s such a strange thing, because you have this long flight, you get your feet on the ground, you train a couple of times and then you’re playing the All Blacks.
“It’s very difficult. After losing that first game, we got a hammering from the coaching staff.
“Then it rained in Christchurch which suited us. We were way better. The game was tied, we should have got the scrum penalty that we could have kicked to win it and it would have been the famous win, the first ever against the All Blacks and doing it away from home.
“This is only me speaking, but I felt the wind had been knocked out of our sails then. That was our opportunity.
“It obviously put a real dampener on the whole tour to get beat by 60.
“I’m not here to slag Deccie off at all, he gave me my first cap and gave me a number more.
“He showed a good deal of faith in me at other times too.
“But Paddy Wallace getting called up from the beach to play against Sonny Bill Williams four days later probably summed up where we were at before that third Test.
“The whole situation was poorly managed. I’ve been in the situation where you’re told one thing and another thing happens. Basically why would you bring a centre out when you had Darren Cave? Why would you bring (Cave) on tour if you weren’t ever going to start him?
“It’s not Paddy’s fault. He’s out there with his wife and kids at the time and says, ‘Okay, no problem, I’ll come out’ and four days later he’s playing against Sonny Bill Williams. They’d a rocket up their backsides because they’d been ran close the week before and he doesn’t know what time zone he’s in. It was just silly.
“You kind of had that feeling, although I wasn’t a senior player in the group, that it was the beginning of the end when you’re making decisions like that.
“I felt sorry for Darren. He must have felt terrible for that to happen to him.”
Tuohy would have his own share of ups and downs over the remainder of his Ireland career. It would be another two years before he’d play a home Test, his eighth time in the jersey, but only a week later would break his arm.
His final outing for the side, then coached by Joe Schmidt, would come in a World Cup warm-up game for a tournament where he would ultimately not make the final squad. It was only after Paul O’Connell was injured in the final pool stage fixture and Tuohy’s phone didn’t ring that he realised his international days were done.
A little over a year later, he was out of Irish rugby altogether, seeing out his career with Bristol, Leicester, Stade Francais and finally Vannes.
“I look back on (my Ireland career) with great pride and I’ve had some amazing memories,” he says. “I think I over-achieved given where I started from, but I think I under-achieved once I got there.
“There was a point there when Paulie was getting older, O’Callaghan was going, Leo (Cullen) was going. I got 11 caps but between 2010-14 I could have had 30 if I’d one, knuckled down that bit more and two, got the rub of the green with the injuries.
“But then you blink and you’re eight years down the line.
“It’s strange talking about it. Nobody waits for you to reminisce. It’s onto the next game, the next crop of players, the next result to be had. That’s the pressure of it, the game waits for nobody.”
• Ireland prop Jeremy Loughman should not have been allowed to return to the field after suffering concussion symptoms against the Maori All Blacks, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has concluded.
A review into the incident found the correct protocols were not followed due to a communication error.
Munster loose-head Loughman was filmed falling backwards as he attempted to return to his feet following a collision in the second minute of Wednesday’s 32-17 defeat in Hamilton.
The 26-year-old was temporarily replaced by Cian Healy but, having undergone a head injury assessment (HIA), came back on before being permanently withdrawn at half-time.
NZR medical manager Karen Rassmussen said in a statement: “NZR believes Ireland prop Jeremy Loughman should not have been allowed back on to the field during the first half. We have identified a gap in communications, which meant critical video evidence was not fully accounted for as part of the Head Injury Assessment process.”