Wednesday 21 February 2018

Craig Gilroy aiming to claim Six Nations wing spot

Craig Gilroy
Craig Gilroy

Ireland's two RBS 6 Nations wing spots are both still up for grabs, according to Craig Gilroy.

The fit-again Ulster flyer is aiming for a performance senior boss Joe Schmidt cannot ignore for the Ireland Wolfhounds in Saturday's clash with England Saxons at Kingsholm.

Ireland have lost Munster three-quarter Keith Earls for the duration of the Six Nations with knee ligament damage.

Tommy Bowe is yet to recover from groin trouble suffered on Ireland duty in November and will miss the first two rounds of Six Nations action.

Dave Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Luke Fitzgerald and Andrew Trimble are currently the senior squad's four main wing competitors.

But Gilroy remains confident he and fit-again Simon Zebo of Munster still have time to muscle back into the picture.

Ireland open their Six Nations campaign by hosting Scotland in Dublin on Sunday, February 2.

Gilroy believes a standout showing in Gloucester on Saturday could be enough to sneak back into the Six Nations equation.

"Last year when I was playing Tommy Bowe was fit," said the 22-year-old.

"It was Simon Zebo at 15, and Andrew Trimble, Luke Fitzgerald and Fergus (McFadden) were all there too.

"Everyone's here now except Tommy.

"Everyone's been playing well for their club, so no one really knows who Joe's going to go for.

"So that's another reason why it's really important to have a good game this weekend, because who knows where you could be in two weeks' time?

"Definitely you want to produce something strong.

"You want to get out and play some good rugby, and give Joe a bit of a headache when selection time comes around again."

Gilroy suffered concussion in Ulster's 27-16 Heineken Cup victory over Montpellier on January 10.

Relieved to overcome that blow in time for the Wolfhounds clash, he said: "I wouldn't say I'm quite at full sharpness yet but I'm definitely back to full fitness, which is good, so just coming off the back of two Heineken Cup games where we did well.

"So I'm back to full fitness now and just hoping to make an impact.

"Hopefully this weekend again is an opportunity for me to put my hand up, to be used throughout the course of the competition."

Former Leinster boss Schmidt's love of detail has stunned all those who have not worked under him before.

Gilroy is no exception, and while he expects the Wolfhounds to take a leaf out of the senior side's attacking blueprint, he promised there will be a level of individuality on view at Gloucester this weekend.

"Joe's been very impressive so far, the detail he goes into one-on-one with the guys," said Gilroy.

"He doesn't miss anything, he's a real perfectionist and the level of detail is enormous.

"He's welcomed me back in and just said it was good to see me back playing.

"Most of us have played together a few times so everyone's pretty comfortable.

"I haven't played with Felix (Jones) before but I've really enjoyed training with him, he really knows his stuff, and it's comfortable playing outside him.

"If you try to do everything 100 miles an hour everything might fall apart, so as long as we stay calm and trust each other things should go well.

"I think the foundation is quite similar to the senior side but there are a few little extras we will have added as well, just to benefit the players we'll have on the field."

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