Wednesday 17 January 2018

Marty Moore: Toulon was my darkest day... now this game is everything

Marty Moore's rise has seen him claim two Six Nations titles, now he wants a Champions Cup

Leinster's Marty Moore is ready to deliver when called upon. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Marty Moore is ready to deliver when called upon. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Marty Moore could be forgiven for being happy with his lot. Over the course of 10 Ireland caps he has accumulated as much silverware as many internationals achieve in a lifetime, adding a Pro12 title with Leinster for good measure.

The prop seemingly appeared from nowhere to ease the country's tighthead problem in one fell swoop, and since he came off the bench to steady Leinster's scrum at the Liberty Stadium, he hasn't looked back. Not that he's planning on easing up.

This week, Brian O'Driscoll moved to dampen down the expectation around his old team, arguing that fans must be realistic about what a team can achieve after the high-profile retirements and departures of recent years.

His views will have fallen on deaf ears between the four walls he used to tog out in, however. The players who came through the Academy at a time when Leo Cullen was lifting Heineken Cups on a seemingly annual basis expect to do the same. Now they have to earn it. "I think it is our responsibility," Moore (below) says. "You can't have the same couple of senior voices in the squad trying to get people to keep things ticking along at the same level, it's not fair on them.

"It's the responsibility of the rest of us. I've only been in the squad for maybe two years at the most now, there's still a significant level of experience there across the board, there's a lot of game-time between us.

"It's up to everyone in the environment to keep on top of each other and keep the standards up, we're quite good on that. It's light-hearted at times, but if something needs to be said there's no holding back.

"But, yeah, Brian said the standards are so high, but the results they achieved are the reason we keep trying to push it on and keep it going."

Moore (24) has timed his career well and has eked plenty out of it. He has a gold medal for every Six Nations he has played in, but the lingering regret of his short time to date came in Toulon last season when Leinster were blown away by the eventual European champions in the quarter-final.

The glory of Murrayfield may only be a fortnight ago, but atoning for that Toulon loss and maintaining Leinster's proud recent tradition is top of the agenda as they face Bath today.

"At the moment, it's everything. Not just the week that we're in, it's something we spoke about last year when we came together at the beginning of pre-season," Moore explains.

"A lot of the younger guys in the squad like me grew up watching Leinster dominate Europe and winning three titles. It almost seemed like the norm and that standard has been set now.

"Last year, Jesus, that was probably the darkest day I've had over in Toulon. It was really tough to take. Myself and say Jordi (Murphy) have had great records in the green jersey and have won the league with Leinster, but the main prize with Leinster is still for the taking and it's something we haven't done."

Moore's role has largely been as an impact replacement, closing games out for the final 30 minutes when Mike Ross has started to show signs of fatigue.

In January, he looked like he had made a personal breakthrough when Matt O'Connor started him for the pivotal pool games against Castres and Wasps, leaving the Ireland starter out of the equation.

The youngster rewarded his provincial coach with two strong performances and he appeared to be in pole position to start the Six Nations, but Joe Schmidt opted to retain faith in Ross for the duration as Moore reprised his impact role.

Ross did so well he has been rewarded with a Leinster recall today and while Moore isn't happy, he won't be going around complaining.

"It's always difficult when you're not getting the start," he reflects. "It was tough to take at the time (of the Six Nations), but Mike's been there a long time. Coming into the Six Nations he'd started the last 31 internationals and in the Irish jersey, he'd played mostly full games. So, you can't fault those sort of performances.

"I'd like to think that 10 years down the line, if I was a senior player, then the coaches would have faith in me going into a tournament. It's kind of tough, but you can't argue with the logic behind it.

"Any time you have a team that's capable of going back-to-back in championships, there's going to be a hell of a fight to get on the team. You're not going to have success like that if there's no competition."

Before the tournament, Ross was asked about his young rival who he had once mentored and said "I'm telling him s*** now".

So have things gotten a bit more serious?

"We still room together when we go away and we still spend a lot of time together. We do our analysis together and swap tips," Moore insists.

"There was an article a while ago that was quite funny, he was obviously joking but I still get people saying 'Aw Jesus, have things changed between you and Mike?' But, it's the exact same.

"Just now, it's more maybe I was the kid a few years ago and now people see us more as equals fighting it out for the same spot.

"Tadhg (Furlong) as well, the three of us there, there's very good camaraderie and relationships there. We push ourselves on, there's competition but it's all for the good of the team."

From the moment half-time rolls around, Moore will switch into impact mode, just has he has done for most of the last 10 weeks with Ireland.

Having been pitched from relative obscurity into the heat of top-class rugby, he knows he can deliver and is ready to do so when called upon.

"I've never doubted my ability," he says. "Not to sound cocky, but if you speak to any of the players nobody would doubt that they can go out there and play. But you might be worried about small things on the day. Making minor mistakes... you don't want it to be one of those days where nothing goes your way.

"I suppose it happened quicker than I maybe anticipated. I always had the general viewpoint of props' - especially tightheads' - progress being a little bit slower than others.

"But once you get out there, there's no doubts - the hard work is getting to the place where the coaches don't have doubts about you."

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