Tracy seizing moment but Leinster ace plays down Ireland chances
James Tracy is playing down his chances of establishing himself as Leinster's first-choice hooker in Castres this weekend following Seán Cronin's woes and, perhaps, his stricken colleague's status as primary back-up to Irish captain Rory Best during the Six Nations.
However, he has received the backing of a player who is perhaps best placed to assess his credentials - Cronin himself.
"He has come on very well," enthuses Cronin. "He has got a couple of good opportunities from the staff in Leinster to play and played well.
"He got his cap in November so he's motoring nicely but there's a lot of competition at hooker at the moment, guys playing decent rugby.
"But if he gets another chance this weekend then it gives him another chance to put himself in the shop window.
"You've got Richardt Strauss coming back and Brian Byrne, so there is lots of competition in Leinster alone, and other guys playing well around the country, so it will be interesting to see the shake-up when the Six Nations squad is announced."
That squad is due to be announced early next week and, with Munster's Niall Scannell joining Strauss and Ulster's capped South African Rob Herring in the shake-up, it promises to be an intriguing call, perhaps prompting caution from Tracy despite his rival's handicap.
"That is just the game, it is an attritional game and there are a lot of injuries. It is a good opportunity for me but I just need to look after my roles and keep playing well.
"Nothing is guaranteed, I need to put my head down. There is great competition in Leinster, never mind Ireland.
"There is great depth in every position in Ireland and all you can do is keep pushing the door.
" I am not really thinking about the Six Nations, I am just thinking week to week. That way it just keeps you focused.
"Hopefully if I am playing week to week it will put me in a good stead. There are plenty of good hookers around the country who are starting every week at the moment as well. I need to be playing well to get selected."
Tracy is certainly fulfilling that side of the bargain, driving a renewed Leinster charge on a European stage they once strode like a colossus, backboned by many of the world-class talents that still remain.
Now the younger cadre, led by Garry Ringrose and including Tracy, Joey Carbery, Rory O'Loughlin and Adam Byrne, are eager to absorb the wisdom - and bag the medals - that reside amongst their famed elders.
Jealous "Yeah, you look at them and you see what they have done and you are jealous of it really," he says.
"The standards that those players have set just drive you on every day. That is where the hunger comes from.
"The experience of playing for the past year is invaluable. The big games are where you learn the most about yourself.
"Whether you can handle the pressure and the different things that come with the build-up and everything like that.
"Last year I was lucky to come off the bench against Bath and then I got that start, that kicked a lot of people on and gave us the confidence to know that we were not far off from where we want to be.
"Any team that has been successful in the past has to believe that they can win from the start. It all stems from confidence.
"It doesn't mean we are going to win the thing. We are going to give ourselves every chance, one game at a time."