Belfast Telegraph

Tuned-in Gilroy aims to silence Toulouse with X Factor

By Jonathan Bradley

As a player who likes nothing more than bringing some X Factor to the usually heavily structured nature of the Pro12, taking on Toulouse tonight at Kingspan Stadium (7.45pm kick-off) could be just the type of game perfectly suited for Craig Gilroy.

Ulster's top try-scorer last season, thanks to form that saw him named the team's Player of the Year, started this campaign brightly with four tries in the first two months but of late has fallen victim to a lack of ball in hand.

With Toulouse frequent advocates of the offload, and an expectation for better conditions than the howling wind and heavy rain that have rendered recent outings a tough time to be a winger, Gilroy is looking forward to playing in a more open contest.

"I really enjoyed last season and for me I want to continue that on into this season," he said.

"I've done that in a few games at the start of the season and dotted down, which was good obviously, but there were a few games were I didn't get the ball that much.

"I'd like to maybe get my hands on the ball more and I don't like to blame the weather but there have been some pretty shocking nights in Belfast.

"Toulouse are kind of a hard team to sort of plan what to do, they just like to play,

"They like to throw the ball about and we'd be more of a structured game plan so it's going to be a huge challenge for us.

"Any footage I've watched, wherever they receive the ball they just seem to want to run it back so that's important for us to get our kick-chase right and we have to be switched on."

With Gilroy keen to influence proceedings tonight in whatever way possible, he remains willing to go in search of work should Ulster again be unable to spread the ball wide.

"I enjoy my style of play and love playing rugby the way I do," said the 24-year-old.

"I like to create that little bit of buzz that maybe adds a little bit of X Factor to the team.

"I want to get the ball in my hands and keep moving, beat defenders and try to bring a little something to the game.

"But if it'll get to a stage where, if you're on the wing and the ball's not coming, you'll just have to go in and try to get your hands on it.

"You're no use to anyone just standing out there doing nothing."

It was Gilroy's form last season that resulted in his inclusion in Joe Schmidt's extended World Cup squad in the summer but, after failing to make the final 31-man panel, the Bangor native is keen to make a big impact for his province before thoughts wander to adding to his six-cap Test total.

"I think probably starting with Ulster," he said of his goals for this campaign.

"I want to be involved in the big games, whether that's in the league, the inter-pros and then obviously the Champions Cup.

"That's first and foremost. Once you get that and you play well there, the Ireland set-up almost takes care of itself.

"That's another huge goal for me, obviously I've huge aspirations still for Ireland and would like to have probably played more in the past but I haven't so that's still a huge goal for me, to pull on the green jersey as much as possible.

"Obviously there's just massive competition to play international rugby. It'd mean the world obviously. Every player wants to reach the pinnacle.

"Guys want to play international rugby, guys want to play Lions tours, and if you don't want to be the best you can be, you should be doing something else."

Belfast Telegraph


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