Dan Tuohy didn't panic when told he was making Aviva bow
Ulster's Dan Tuohy had a grin as broad as Dublin Bay when he strode into the post-match mixed zone last night.
Having just made his first RBS 6 Nations appearance and played for Ireland at the Aviva Stadium for the first time, he was understandably delighted at how well things had gone.
He revealed that when forwards coach John Plumtree had informed him of his inclusion at breakfast time, initially he thought it was a wind-up.
"I'd a smile on my face because I thought he was joking," the 28-year-old lock said. "The smile came off my face pretty quickly when I knew he was serious!"
There was no panic when the news sank it.
"I then I just thought to myself, 'Look, you're prepped well this week' because you always have to prepare well in case you come on in the first five minutes. So I knew my stuff – that was in the bank," he said.
"It was just a case of getting my head round starting. I'd a good few hours to get that in my head and just get on with it."
He did not see the man whose place he had taken.
"I think he was in bed, just resting up" was his explanation of O'Connell's non-appearance for breakfast in the Shelbourne.
He saw Schmidt at the 11am team meeting and the coach said, 'I hope you're ready. Go out and enjoy yourself.'
Tuohy says making the best of the hand dealt to you is how sport operates.
"I was quite public in telling everybody that I'd been pestering Joe for an opportunity. Sometimes they just come out of the blue. In a way I was on the bench, this was my opportunity," he said.
"Not an ideal situation for everyone involved to lose our captain but sometimes these opportunities come.
"I've been knocking on Joe's door for the November (Tests) and for this series and he gave me that opportunity on the bench. I'm thankful for that. And he relied upon me to start today.
"I was frustrated, yeah. We had chats and he said I needed more consistency. I felt I showed that and that was reflected in me being on the bench.
"I turned up for the Wolfhounds and played 80 (minutes) last week, which was thoroughly enjoyable, and it's just great to know that has enabled me to perform at this level."
Admitting that it had taken him 15 minutes to ease his way into yesterday's match he said: "I was a little bit behind the pace. It took me by surprise.
"But after 10-15 minutes I certainly knew I was in the game and from then on in I settled nicely, got the rhythm and the pace and I'm pretty pleased with my performance."
Stressing the need for a moment of affirmation, Tuohy said: "It's just important to start the game and do something to get you into the game.
"I got my hands on the ball a couple of times which just relaxed me a little bit. It was a lot more comfortable in the second half. But it was thoroughly enjoyable."