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'World class' Wallace finally gets his chance

By Gavin Mairs

It is remarkable to think that four years ago David Wallace wasn't considered good enough to make Ireland's 30-man squad bound for Australia.

Despite a dazzling try-scoring display against Scotland in the final warm-up game against Scotland, Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan looked elsewhere.

Wallace, who had been close to a World Cup call in 1999 and made the 2001 Lions tour to Australia as an injury replacement, would eventually get a late call in 2003 as a replacement when Alan Quinlan dislocated his shoulder. But he made no impression and had to wait another two years before finally nailing down a regular starting place in the Irish back row.

Having shaken off an ankle problem that ruled him out of the three warm-up matches last month, Wallace is finally ready to make his World Cup bow against Namibia on Sunday, in place of Ulster's Neil Best.

The 31-year-old is eager to make it count after the bitter disappointment of four years ago.

"In 1999 I was within touching distance. To miss out four years later was hard to take. Maybe I hadn't proved my form before the World Cup but I'm here this time and what's gone on in the past is immaterial."

Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan believes Wallace's combination of hard work and natural gifts now make a potent cocktail.

"He was always an exceptional ball-carrier and he has an extraordinary physique for a guy who can run that fast," said O'Sullivan.

"He is a unique player but he was always played at six or eight and his transition to number seven meant he had to change his view on the game.

"But, to his credit, he sat down with (Ireland forwards coach) Niall O'Donovan and went through the areas in his game that were important for him to make the breakthrough and worked very hard at them.

"Over the last couple of season we have seen a guy turn himself into a world class openside."

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