Thursday 26 April 2018

Warwick Australian by birth -- Munster by the grace of God

Ian Bransfield

Paul Warwick will be stuck in a state somewhere between rapture and remorse when the Wallabies visit Thomond Park for next week's Sony Ericsson Challenge.

On the one hand, Munster's adopted Aussie is fully captivated by the prospect of coming face to face with so many of his ex-colleagues.

On the other, there is a slight, but sharp tinge of regret having never quite fulfilled his international aspirations. Warwick, who turns 30 in January, forged a promising career as a youngster in his native land and represented Australia in Sevens and at underage level.

He had a Super 14 contract with the Queensland Reds and it seemed only a matter of time before he became a fully fledged Wallaby, but naivety proved his one major downfall and cost him his chance.

"Maybe there's a hint of regret that I didn't take the chance when I was younger, but I wasn't ready for it," he says. "I probably took things for granted and didn't work hard enough. I wondered why I wasn't getting picked -- but I didn't deserve it. I'd like to think that I had the talent to play for the Wallabies, but wasn't mature enough."

Nonetheless, Warwick is grateful for the second chance he has been granted in Ireland, first with Connacht and then with Munster.

Married to a Cork woman, he's content that his choices in life have led him to a good place. "My career has blossomed," he says. "And I've got a family out of it, so I'm well entrenched in Munster."

For him, the time-honoured history of the province became most apparent in 2008 when New Zealand visited Thomond Park on that memorable November night.

But while most look back fondly on the magnificent mayhem which almost brought the All Blacks to their knees, Warwick's recollections of that match are tainted somewhat by the memory of what happened in the last play of the game. With Munster two points behind and no time left on the clock, the ball broke in midfield, but rather than keep it in hand, Warwick tried a speculative chip ahead which bounced into touch, signalling the end of the game.

"It's a huge regret," he says. "I can't even explain what I was thinking, it was probably just exhaustion. I was absolutely gutted because we had a real chance to win -- it was a brain explosion."

Warwick's performances since then have done more than enough to atone for that particular slip -- but if any additional redemption is felt necessary, he will have a perfect chance on Tuesday night.

It's not yet clear what sort of line-up the Wallabies will put out, but the chances are that Warwick has played with at least some of them Down Under.

"I'll be proud to be on the same field with the team that I grew up admiring and aspiring to play for. When I left Australia I gave up on playing for the Wallabies, but seven years down the track, I'm looking forward to the opportunity of playing against them," he says.

Irish Independent

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