Friday 23 March 2018

Fitzgerald's frank insight into battle for green jerseys

We'll be civil to each other – but undercurrent will be there, reveals flying Leinster winger

Luke Fitzgerald is likely to start for Ireland against Scotland
Luke Fitzgerald is likely to start for Ireland against Scotland

Diarmuid Lyng

The Six Nations comes knocking and, as a result, we have had a number of increasingly illuminating interviews with a number of Irish rugby players on the show, Luke Fitzgerald being the most recent on Monday night.

Honest, frank, open. Is it a reaction to the banality of most sporting interviews today? Or is it that Ireland's rugby stars are content to afford the public a real glimpse into the inner workings of their mental preparation and its relationship to the broader team dynamic?

Soccer interviewers and interviewees fill a role. This is what happened. This is how it happened. But rarely why it happened. GAA interviewees are becoming increasingly similar. God forbid you'd be pinned up on the opposing dressing-room door, inspiring the opposition to untold deeds.

Fitzgerald has been through the mill injury-wise and has nothing to hide anymore. He is in competition with four or five others to start in the Six Nations. There won't be the same banter. The undercurrent of inquiry as to what the other one is doing is in residence. Every mistake. Every achievement. Every look.

With the necessity to play, to entertain on the field, everything is amplified. Nothing is meaningless.

Joe Schmidt has the benefit of increased competition for places like few Irish managers before him. How else could he afford to leave an X-factor player like Simon Zebo off the match-day squad for the opening two matches?

"It'll be serious from my perspective. There'll be no banter. We'll be civil to each other – but the undercurrent will be there," Fitzgerald told us on Monday.

"I don't really take these things off the field ... but you'd be wondering what they're eating, how late they're staying up."

Schmidt's biggest challenge is maintaining this competition in the positive.

The competition is positive when it forces players to up their performance, to focus their minds and get the best of themselves to ensure they're actually on the field, before a single Scotsman is pounded into the turf in Landsdowne this Sunday.

But if there's something you can do to help one of your team-mates to reach their potential, and thus the team's, even if it's at the cost of your own inclusion, will it be done? Or is self-preservation more important. Fine line.


Irish Independent

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