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Ireland recall still on Moore's mind as he prepares for home soil battle against Ulster

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Ten caps, zero starts, two Six Nations medals. Former Leinster prop Martin Moore had something of an unconventional Test career with Ireland.

Once seen as the man expected to carry on where Mike Ross left off, a run of injuries and last season's move to the other side of the Irish Sea means he hasn't pulled on the green jersey since Scotland away in March 2015, the day since dubbed as "Super Saturday."

Expected to start for Wasps when they meet Ulster at Kingspan Stadium tomorrow night to begin the Champions Cup (7.45pm kick-off), he admits that the chance to offer a reminder of what he can do on home soil is an energising prospect.

"It's always a big deal to go back," he said. "Every week you want to do your best, but it's definitely an added emphasis.

"When you're at home, you want a good showing for your team and yourself also.

"Ulster in the past, it's been a derby for me. That adds to it.

"It's a European opener, but against Ulster, that makes it even bigger for me."

The emergence of Tadhg Furlong, who in Moore's absence nailed down the Leinster, Ireland, and then Lions number three jersey, as well as that of Finlay Bealham and the belated breakthrough of John Ryan, means that Joe Schmidt has had little cause for temptation when it comes to bending his policy on selecting overseas based players.

But still just 26-years old, Moore has not given up hope of representing his country again.

"I think it's always in the back of your mind," he admitted. "It's something I suppose you always hope for as a player.

"Whether that's more difficult with me playing my rugby here or not, I suppose it's yet to be seen.

"I can't say being here has been the reason I haven't played because I haven't had a run of form and been injury free for sort of six to nine months.

"Moving forward, it's an ambition to play for Ireland again."

Despite the effects on his Test prospects, Moore maintains he has no regrets over his switch, believing he is a better player both for the rigours of Premiership rugby and the guidance of his director of rugby, three-time Lions prop Dai Young.

"The Premiership is definitely a different tournament. Week in week out I do think there's more emphasis here on the set-piece than in the PRO14. That's one of the reasons I wanted to come here. It's a massive challenge.

"As a tight-head especially, it's a tough environment but it's one I want to be in. It's tough but it's all good and Dai has been invaluable.

"When you're coming up against international quality every week, such strong opposition, new challenges, to have a Lions prop as you director is amazing.

"To have that experience, that wisdom, to bounce ideas off is great. If you're going down the wrong road, he's there to correct you. That isn't always the case at clubs, there might not be that experience at hand. It's been great.

"He has me trying to be more aggressive from the get go.

"It's harder with the new rules but you can fall into the trap that means you fold in. That's not where we want to be. We want it to be competitive and that's something Dai is very big on."

This season, though, has been a struggle for Young and his men.

Last season's beaten finalists in the Premiership, they sit 10th at this early stage having lost four games in a row for the first time since March 2014.

"Any team, if you lose four in a row, it's tough," adds Moore. "But I think it's galvanised the team in a way. Last year there were lots of new faces, myself included, and it's easy when you're on top.

"It's times like this that test a team, bring you closer together.

"Last weekend there were players coming in who haven't necessarily played a lot of rugby but who came in and did a job out of position. We've come together as a squad and hopefully we'll have a few back to sort of bolster the ranks.

"The mood isn't as bad as four losses would make you think.

"We're not going to blame things on injuries. It's part of the game, it's maybe hit us more than normal but we have to get on with it with the squad that we have."

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