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Dan Tuohy: I knew my stuff, I was ready

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Ireland's Dan Tuohy is tackled by Scotland's Ross Ford during yesterday's Six Nation's clash

Ireland's Dan Tuohy is tackled by Scotland's Ross Ford during yesterday's Six Nation's clash

SPORTSFILE

Ireland's Dan Tuohy is tackled by Scotland's Ross Ford during yesterday's Six Nation's clash

At 8.0 yesterday morning, Dan Tuohy was spooning a glob of porridge towards his expectant mouth when Ireland forwards coach John Plumtree tapped him on the shoulder.

"I need a word," the South African said, motioning him to one side. "Paulie's out. You're in." Tuohy was, naturally, taken aback. More so because he was struggling to contain the unintended mirth that had invaded the seriousness of the moment.

"I had a smile on my face because I thought he was joking, but the smile came off my face pretty quickly when I knew he was serious!" he recalls.

Nonetheless, and without momentary hesitation, Tuohy returned to his unfinished meal. He continued eating. A fry arrived. He gobbled that up too.

His day would continue in the same vein. Familiar, expectant routine.

While many others may have sought refuge in the nearest toilet bowl to retch up globules of anxiety, this experienced son of Ulster, a descendant of Cashel, by way of Somerset, knew he was ready to fill in for one of the most formidable presences the sport here has ever witnessed.

ANXIETY

Ronan O'Gara was succinct in his sense of anxiety before the game when the news of O'Connell's potentially seismic withdrawal scattered throughout the Aviva; he feared that the pack's performance would automatically be denuded of 25pc of its impact.

"He's just a freak," he frowned. The freak nature of the withdrawal may, in other circumstances, have engendered panic and inhibition.

Yet, on a day when ruthless assurance and clinical delivery epitomised almost every Ireland footstep, the sense of impeccable calm and order was laid bare by the almost nonchalant ease with which the 28-year-old seamlessly slotted into the team.

Twice he enacted key moments that led to scores that shifted the momentum of this contest; first, with the line-out steal that created the pressure for his club-mate Andrew Trimble's game-breaking opening try; and then, producing the deft offload with which his game has always been associated, he created the opening for Chris Henry to burst through in the build-up to Rob Kearney's definitive score.

That put the game beyond doubt; it also erased any apprehension among those who saw in O'Connell's late removal only the direst implications.

"I just thought to myself, 'Look, I prepped well this week', because you have to prepare well just in case you have to come on in the first five minutes off the bench.

"So I knew my stuff, that was in the bank. It was just a case of getting my head around being on from the start. I had a good few hours to get my head around it and get into it."

It made it easier that the squad performed walk-throughs only 12 hours earlier.

If O'Connell's counsel had been required, it wouldn't have been available as the Limerick man was, belatedly, sleeping soundly after his nocturnal travails.

Tuohy didn't require further aid. Both O'Connell and Devin Toner are line-out leaders so Tuohy was, in effect, only covering for one lock role, which made things easier.

"Maybe it's easier because I'm older," he also offers. "I said to myself, 'I've played big Heineken Cup games, I've played against the All Blacks', so I wanted to try to take as much experience from those things as I could.

"It's about backing yourself. I'm getting a bit older. I've worked hard for this and I'm glad that I've got it."

Fate may have arbitrated that the Bristolian's opportunity to shine arrived in less-than-propitious circumstances, but Tuohy ignored the profile of the situation and concentrated on the process.

After all, this is a man who created a piquant sense of history, becoming only the seventh international player to score a try within a minute of a debut during the calamitous 2010, 66-28 humiliation by the All Blacks in New Plymouth.

Indeed, of his next four caps, three would be away to the greatest rugby team on earth, the other against Australia.

But the two earned on foreign shores last summer, against USA and Canada, seemed to more accurately reflect his dwindling influence on national selectors' thoughts.

"I was quite public in telling everybody I was pestering Joe for an opportunity," he admits freely.

"Sometimes they just come out of the blue. It wasn't ideal in terms of the circumstances for others but sometimes these opportunities come and you just have to get them where you can. I've been knocking on Joe's door for the November games and for this series and he gave me the opportunity on the bench, and I'm grateful for that and that he relied on me to start today.

"I was frustrated in November. Joe said I needed more consistency and I think I've delivered that. That's why I was originally on the bench for this one. It's great to know that he has the belief in me that I can perform at this level."

Keeping his own counsel was tough; with three hours until the team meeting, he spilled the beans, first to room-mate Luke Marshall and then with a text to his dad, Simon.

His phone soon started to buzz frantically. The buzz was still evident last evening, despite grimly receiving news of his beloved Liverpool's slip-up. Now he wants more.

UNBELIEVABLE

"We'll see. It's Paul O'Connell. He's team captain. I'm not holding my breath on that one. He's an unbelievable player. I think I've done enough for Joe to consider me for Six Nations squads, but I've definitely put my case forward.

"It's nice to get a home cap and show the Irish crowd, hopefully, my abilities in a green shirt. I wouldn't call myself a fully-fledged international. I'd have to be starting a few more games to call myself that."

So will Martin Moore. Ireland finished the game with effectively a reserve Leinster front-row; his phenomenal rise screams loud to all and sundry that anything is achievable. This time last year, he and Jack McGrath were on Leinster 'A' detail.

Someone suggests politely, after such an encouraging debut, that he will now seek to continue his role as a 20-minute man.

Someone else adds, why not 60? Or more?

"That's what every player wants, you want to be playing those minutes. If it comes my way I will be more than happy to take it," Moore said.

The evidence of this campaign already suggests that Ireland are capable of mining opportunity from calamity.

Irish Independent