Friday 21 July 2017

We can pack more of a punch, vows U-20s star McElroy

U20 hooker Tadgh McElroy says there is a lot more to come from the Ireland pack. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
U20 hooker Tadgh McElroy says there is a lot more to come from the Ireland pack. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Prior to the start of the U-20s Six Nations, the majority of the talk had been focused around the star quality that is littered across the Ireland back line, but the pack's performance against France highlighted that there is much more to this team than just the mercurial strike runners.

At the heart of Ireland's dominant display against a much bigger French side, was hooker Tadhg McElroy who insists: "There is a lot more to come from our pack in the next few games."

The 19-year-old hasn't taken the conventional route to get to this point but his years of impressing with Dundalk RFC at underage level led to Lansdowne coach Mike Ruddock enticing him to join the AIL leaders.

McElroy was fast-tracked into the senior team and at just 18, he suddenly found himself sharing a bench alongside an Ireland international in Marty Moore.

"I was sitting beside him when I'd just turned 18, it was away to Young Munster," McElroy recalled.

"We didn't get the result we were looking for but it was absolutely fantastic to be sitting beside such a legend of the game and he treated me like one of his own. He didn't think he was anything big or anything. He was just so nice to me and he gave me all sorts of tips."

Having been selected for Leinster's sub-academy, the move to Lansdowne really opened McElroy's eyes to the possible opportunities that lay ahead and up to this point, he has seized every one of them.

"It's absolutely massive, I was very lucky to get a good run in the Lansdowne senior team this year," he says.

"The physicality of training and in matches took me a little by surprise. I wasn't really expecting it so I got through that phase in senior rugby and that has benefited me with the 20s.

"I was playing against men - guys who had played pro rugby and with the Academies and guys like me who were looking to get into Academies. It affected me in a really good way. The physicality was always there with me. It wasn't a shock, it was just about getting comfortable with it.

"I wouldn't have been called in if I wasn't good enough to be there. I was always told that, so I banked on that.

"If Mike Ruddock had faith in me then that gave me a lot of confidence so I kept saying that to myself: 'He has confidence in me, I have the ability to do this'.

"That led to me not really letting the games or the physicality get to me, or what league I'm in. It is just a rugby field and if Mike has confidence in me I can do the job."

Ireland remain very much in the hunt for a Grand Slam showdown with England on St Patrick's Day but they face their toughest test yet in Wales on Saturday. McElroy who has two Six Nations tries to his name already, is relishing the latest physical battle.

"From the Scottish game, everyone doubted us in the scrum but we did a lot of work on it and put some pride into it and that is starting to show now. There is a lot more to come from our pack in the next few games."

Irish Independent

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