Tracy: Learning from Best has improved me
James Tracy believes that he has returned to Leinster a more improved player after winning his first Ireland cap against Canada three weeks ago.
The Kildare native spent a lot of the last month in Carton House under the watchful eye of Joe Schmidt, while he also spent plenty of time picking Rory Best's brain.
The Ireland captain was outstanding in the November series and Tracy admitted that he is learning a lot from Best.
"It's great experience to go up against somebody of that calibre, so I definitely learned a few things," Tracy said.
"Rory was really good with me. He sat down with me on my first day and talked me through all the different things. As much as I could, I talked to him about the way Joe wants our hookers to play, and the different plays.
"Apart from that, it's kind of up to yourself to watch the best players out there and try to emulate them, or find your own X-factor and stick with that."
It was Schmidt who encouraged the Kildare native to switch from prop to hooker and he continues to put in the hard yards on the training pitch.
"Like with kickers and scrum-halves, it all comes down to practice," Tracy explained.
"If you know you've put in the hours, it's going to give you confidence when it comes to that pressure situation, because you've done it a million times.
"I don't have a farmyard (like Best), but we have a hoop in Leinster and I come in there nearly every day, and there's the top of a lamppost I throw at if I'm at home in Kildare. I don't know how, but I haven't broken it yet!
"Being a loose-head before, that one-on-one battle, you don't really lose that. I try to take it into the middle of the scrum as much as I can, probably to my detriment at the start, in that I was trying to do my own thing.
"But you learn pretty quickly the hard way that it's all about keeping the props in the right slot and then manipulating whatever way you can."