| 6.2°C Belfast

Ulster ace McCloskey in a hurry to get his international career moving forward before it is too late



Stuart McCloskey

Stuart McCloskey

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Stuart McCloskey

Stuart McCloskey and Ireland. They've never really been more than on nodding terms as three caps since 2016 makes abundantly clear.

The powerful inside centre has just the one Six Nations game behind him, which just happened to be his debut from February four years ago which ended in defeat at Twickenham.

Since then there have been many trips up and down to national camp, but only two more caps, against Fiji in November 2017 and the United States a year later when he scored a try.

The word that has filtered out has largely been that though there is no doubting his power and skill, playing one position - inside centre - has probably weighed against him collecting more caps.

Understandably, there is a certain weariness about all this for the player who has made 125 appearances for Ulster and he deals with the inevitable line of questioning as best he can.

Mind you, he can't hide from the fact that time is against him to make serious inroads at Test level.

"I think you always have that in your head in that I'm now 28 and that if it doesn't happen in the next year or two that's pretty much it for me," the Bangor man admitted.

"At least I can say I gave it a good rattle," he added of being around the squads on frequent occasions though without reward.

"It's very special to have three caps but I feel like I've played better than that over the last few years and could have had a few more," said the Bangor man who is part of Andy Farrell's squad for the forthcoming Six Nations meetings with Italy and France.

"A few decisions could have gone my way but that's the way it goes sometimes.

"The guys who were playing were playing well and Ireland were winning things so I think I've done well to stay in contention this long to still get selected."

His current rivals for the number 12 shirt are probably still ahead of him in Andy Farrell's pecking order with Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw leading that charge.

"There's serious depth and talent and I'm unfortunate enough in that I don't really play any other position, it's 12 for me really."

Perhaps his best shot will come from the Autumn Nations Cup which follows on after the Six Nations has been completed, assuming, of course, that elite sport remains intact despite the current situation regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The lockdown probably came at the worst possible time for me," he states, looking back quite a few months now.

"I think I was playing really well and might have had a look-in in some of the games towards the end of the Six Nations, who knows?

"It's always a privilege to be involved in the Six Nations, or Nations Cup, or anything with Ireland, so I'm happy to be here," he says. "Hopefully I can play my part."

Belfast Telegraph