Sunday 22 April 2018

David Wallace: 'Why should I retire if I'm still on top?'

David Wallace tells Ruaidhri O'Connor age won't dictate the end of his Irish career

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

As each birthday passes and the big ticking clock moves through the 30s, the phrases 'age is only a number' and 'you're only as old as you feel' become as common as silly birthday cards.

While you wouldn't know it to look at him, by the time the World Cup rolls around in September, David Wallace will be 35. In the mind of others, Father Time is calling.

Only three of the 105 players he faced during the recent Six Nations were born before the openside on July 8, 1976 and he is the oldest player Ireland used in the tournament.

Yet the Garryowen man has managed to maintain a level of performance that means his age is rarely discussed and he doesn't feel like stopping any time soon.

It was only the eventual decline of John Hayes that thrust Wallace into the role of elder statesman, but there are younger men in the squad who have not aged as well as the always-tanned, broad-shouldered Limerickman.

After 11 years as an international and with the game now moving in four-year World Cup cycles, Ireland's exit from this year's tournament would seem like a natural time for the Wallace dynasty to come to an end.

For each of the past 20 seasons, a member of the family has been capped by Ireland. Richie is now a pilot, while Paul balances his punditry with working in an insurance company.


David has been considering his options when he eventually does retire and a return to the electrical engineering degree he abandoned when offered a contract with Munster is not on the agenda. But while his mind has wandered towards the next step, he's not calling time just yet.

His stats are still strong and he wants to contribute. Munster thought enough of them to offer him a one-year extension and Wallace says he won't be retiring from international rugby to concentrate on provincial duties. He still feels like he has something to offer his country.

"It's something I want to do, certainly, but it's a question of whether the management want you. They could argue the point that with a four-year cycle, you have to look to the future," he said.

"It's a little bit frustrating (to be judged on his age). I've talked to guys about American football and they go on your stats, your speed, your strength. Once those are up there, then you can go on.

"You have the whole wealth of experience built up as well, it's a bonus on top of those scores. It's a thing, throwing up an arbitrary age. Everyone ages differently, you can't compare like with like sometimes.

"You have to go on the way you're playing. I obviously want to play internationally. It's the age thing again. I don't think I should retire internationally after the World Cup,

"I'm sure there will be a transition period anyway. If I'm playing well enough, and I'm the best player for the job, then I'm available to play."

The Amlin Challenge Cup and Magners League double is occupying Wallace's thoughts these days, but all season the World Cup has loomed large on the horizon.

In town to promote the '4th annual Pedigree Adoption Drive,' the openside cuts a far more relaxed figure than the last time he sat in front of some dictaphones to chat about Ireland.

That was before the defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium, when Ireland's penalty count was top of the agenda and doom and gloom pervaded Carton House. Beating England has cleared the air and lifted the mood -- suddenly people are looking forward to the World Cup again.

Wallace was part of the 2007 squad that still can't put their finger on what went wrong. Although he has been an international for 11 years, he was out of favour in 2003 and only played a limited role.

Hence, this year's tournament represents his last chance for World Cup glory.

"Yeah, well my only real involvement was at the last World Cup, I was brought out for the previous one," he said. "I haven't had a huge involvement and obviously Ireland were very disappointing at the last World Cup, we didn't click for one reason or another and I still haven't really figured out why.

"I think that it will hopefully be a motivating factor because it does stick in your craw, you're on the biggest stage and you just didn't perform.

"While younger guys have come in, a lot of the guys were involved in the last World Cup will be involved in this one and hopefully that will be a motivating factor."

That will have to wait. Munster may be in the unfamiliar surrounds of the Challenge Cup, but a unique European and Magners League double is on their minds. Wallace reckons the semi-final line-up of Clermont-Auvergne, Stade Francais and Harlequins has whetted the appetite down Thomond Park way.

"I think it focuses the mind a lot more," he admitted. "You look at the teams in the semi-finals and it could be a line-up for the Heineken Cup.

"It just kind of goes to prove that it's a competition worth winning, beating these teams. It's European silverware so we're going all out to win it."

And as for a Munster versus Leinster Magners League final?

"It would be very exciting, wouldn't it?" he says with a smile.

Sure why wouldn't he keep going?

Irish Independent

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