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McCloskey deserves chance alongside best Irish have to offer

Stuart McCloskey
Stuart McCloskey
Chris Henry

By Chris Henry

Not for the first time this season, in a close game on Friday night I thought Stuart McCloskey was the difference between the two sides.

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Getting the try on his 100th cap was a fitting way for Ulster to get the win against Ospreys and for me he really has been Mr Consistency this year.

He's had injuries in the past, but those seem to be behind him now and despite the mileage he's putting on the clock with so many minutes this season, he's proving to be durable too.

It's great to see Luke Marshall back in training and guys like Will Addison coming in, but McCloskey really has been a constant in that midfield.

Stu wouldn't be the biggest talker by any means but he's a leader in the way he plays, something that will really help when the Irish internationals are away at the Six Nations.

Even when he first came through you could tell he just loved playing rugby and he's still a great team guy.

The way he's played this year, and looking at things in an Irish context, is he that far off what we're seeing for Ireland?

Personally I don't think so. In the past, people - probably myself included - have wanted to see him distribute the ball a bit more but I think that's really coming along.

And even when he holds onto it, you're practically guaranteed gainline. The opposition know what's coming but stopping it is proving another matter.

It just seems as if he needs a chance at Test level. He's not a three-cap player by any means, and I'm sure there's more to come, but you'd love to see him get a chance with the first-string side around him.

In games like against Fiji and USA, he's played in teams with lots of change, and you can't really compare that to say having Johnny Sexton inside and Robbie Henshaw outside.

Maybe at the minute Ireland's loss will just have to be Ulster's gain.

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