Wednesday 7 December 2016

'Ferocious work ethic' helping former prop Tracy in hooker switch

Published 21/01/2016 | 02:30

Hooker James Tracy. Photo: Sportsfile
Hooker James Tracy. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fogarty had to check his laptop twice on Friday night just to ensure that his eyes hadn't deceived him.

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Was that really James Tracy deploying O'Driscoll-esque evasion to switch the ball from the impending tackle to a galloping Isa Nacewa on the right wing?

"He's a very, very skilful kid for a prop - a prop!" laughs Fogarty of the Newbridge College alumnus who is now very much a hooker.

"Yeah, he's a prop at heart. He was brave to do it as well. And you have to be skilful to be a hooker. . .! But he had that mindset."

Tracy flew beneath the radar compared to his other European debutant starters against Bath.

"Tracy was a loosehead prop when I met him first," says Fogarty, a former hooker delighted with the conversion.

"He's got a ferocious work ethic. We nearly had to kick him out of the gym last week because he threw that many balls at the ring on the gym floor.

"It was like, 'Tracy go home, please go home!' He is a credit to himself."

If Cullen had been like a nervous parent, Fogarty was akin to a fretful uncle as he monitored their fledgling steps.

Nervous

"I was a little bit nervous during the week purely because you want those players to have a good experience. Tracy was a kid, a prop when I first met him.

"What alleviates that is knowing the effort that Tracy exerts every week, knowing how he goes about his business. We have heard a lot about Josh van der Flier and how he does his business but Tracy is somewhat similar.

"It's been really encouraging in the last number of months, last number of weeks in particular where you are watching him and you're kind of going, 'this kid is alright'.

"When he was first talked to about moving to hooker first, he was really open-minded. He was in the Academy as a loosehead. You could be very nervous with someone saying to you, 'can you jump over, can you throw a ball'.

"He took to it really naturally. He is a very open-minded. He said: 'yeah, let's have a go.' He's a very skilful kid. He took to it very well and he works really hard on that part of the game. He throws an awful lot of balls."

Sean O'Brien, for one, reckons any one of Leinster's young guns can make a Six Nations impression, even if Joe Schmidt doesn't yet agree.

"Where will he and the other lads end up?" asks Fogarty. "I hope that they end up being in a blue jersey for a long time and winning competitions."

Irish Independent

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