Chance to return home gives Boss extra World incentive
THREE minutes. That is the length and breadth of Isaac Boss' international career over the last four years.
In 2007, the New Zealand-born scrum-half entered the World Cup in France on the back of a stellar Six Nations and behind Peter Stringer in the pecking order -- only to finish the tournament in the same position behind Eoin Reddan.
He came off the bench in the ignominious exit at the hands of Argentina and then fell off the radar internationally, only seeing action last November in the win over Samoa, replacing Stringer when the game was won.
The strange thing about it is, Boss' stock has never been higher.
Last summer he moved from Ulster to Leinster and although Reddan started more of the big games, he did enough when he was on the pitch to generate a cult following among supporters.
Joe Schmidt often opts for the more physical option when it comes to the bruising encounters, so he started Boss away at Clermont.
And it was his introduction against Leicester that shored up the team's defence.
But international recognition has failed to follow and at times, while on Leinster duty, he has indicated playing for Ireland was a fading dream.
Here he is, however, in Carton House -- one of five scrum-halves in the extended training squad -- ready to stake his claim for a place against Scotland on Saturday.
And there is an added incentive for Boss -- the World Cup is on his own turf. It's not every day you get the chance to represent your adopted country so close to home.
"It would be special to play one of the matches in Rotorua, just 30 minutes from where I grew up," he explains. "I've been lucky enough to play for Ireland 13 times and, like I said, hopefully, I can do so many more times.
"Every player's goal is to make a World Cup -- without a doubt I'd be broken if I didn't make it.
"If I get there, it's nice that it's in New Zealand."
The ghostly halls of the 272-year-old Maynooth mansion lend themselves to contemplation and although they won't admit it, the pecking order must be on the minds of most players.
Boss has been so far down the ladder, he was in danger of falling off the end, but now he has a chance to make a comeback.
"They're picking the best players, the ones they see as consistently starting, so I'm sure they've got it in their mind," he said.
"But it's up to us, I suppose, at training to try and start leapfrogging guys through our performance and start edging our way up the ladder.
"I wouldn't have said that I was in the top two or three over the last few years, so it's up to me to try and change their minds and try and start working my way up the ladder."
Scrum-half is one of the most competitive positions in the Ireland squad right now, with old rivals Reddan and Stringer battling it out for the three spots with Boss, Tomas O'Leary and new boy Conor Murray.
"That's the way it goes," said Boss. "There's some old ones and some good young boys coming through. So the depth there is strong and I would say we probably have more depth at scrum-half than a lot of positions, which just makes you compete harder.
"When you're in the gym you've always got one eye (on your rivals), or when you're passing, you've always got one eye on the other guy to see what he's doing, so you've always got to better each other.
"It's a funny sort of club."