Ulster's Stewart Moore ready to take on world ahead of belated Ireland Under-20s debut
Concussion ensured that when the Ireland Under-20s captured a historic Six Nations Grand Slam back in March, Ulster centre Stewart Moore was left in the role of interested observer, but he is relishing the prospect of a belated debut this evening.
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Moore will start at centre in Ireland's opening game of the 2019 World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Argentina, taking on England (7.30pm BST) to kick-off a testing pool that also contains Australia and Italy.
One of five Ulstermen on the team, alongside Iwan Hughes, Angus Kernohan, David McCann and Azur Allison, the Malone player, having had to wait for so long on the sidelines understandably is relishing being a part of things again.
"I got concussed in one of the trial matches coming up to Christmas against Leinster," he said at the initial squad announcement.
"It was quite a bad concussion and I was out for three months, so that was me off the Six Nations. I came back and played a few All-Ireland League games for Malone and got injured again and eventually made it back now.
"I was obviously jealous (to miss the Six Nations) but it was great for the lads. I have trained with them and played with them and played against them, and just watching them go out there was class. I had no doubts about them against England or France. I knew they were going to do it."
Moore was able to get back on the field in March, and was part of the Ulster A contingent that travelled to Boston to take part in the Cara Cup. While there was a bit of rust, he believes his period of rehab with Ulster put him in a good position to hit the ground running.
"You are training away and are good fitness-wise and I felt really good coming back into the rugby," he said. "A bit nervous, obviously, because it was my head and contact and stuff, but (Ulster skills coach) Dan Soper is there and he is taking injured skills and he is top class. There are boys still keeping their skills up as well as their gym and fitness.
"I came down to Dublin a few times for the neurologist and he just said there is nothing wrong but it was a bad concussion. He just said to take the time off. The next day I felt grand but I just listened to what needs to be done. Players go through it, they have their highs and lows, so it was mainly low the whole season. Hopefully it can end on an up."
England are naturally tough opposition having reached at least the final of this competition for the past six seasons, and six players who will start today in Santa Fe appeared in last year's final.
While Harlequins star Marcus Smith turned down the call-up to the squad to play in last week's uncapped international against the Barbarians, he is replaced by a familiar name in Manu Vunipola, who is the cousin of England internationals Mako and Billy.
Ireland, meanwhile, are without the influential Leinster trio of captain David Hawkshaw, out-half Harry Byrne and back-rower Scott Penny.
Moore, though, believes the side are well used to dealing with injuries, especially what is, essentially in nature, an ever-changing panel.
"I think it was 14 boys went down injured last year (with the Ireland Under-20s), so it changes massively," he said. "Especially with Argentina being so far away you are going to have players with some connections to playing other positions.
"Noel (McNamara, Ireland Under-20s head coach) is completely confident in his players and tries these different things.
"Sean French was playing in at 12 there and he can play wing, 13 and 15 whenever he had to, so we have got great variety in our attack and our defence as a whole."
As part of a World Rugby trial, benches will be 13-strong with eight substitutions permitted.