| 13.1°C Dublin

Forward push drives Moore into front rank


Ireland's Martin Moore during squad training

Ireland's Martin Moore during squad training

Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Ireland's Martin Moore following a press conference

Ireland's Martin Moore following a press conference

Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE


Ireland's Martin Moore during squad training

If you log on to YouTube and search for 'Waiting for a Mate' you'll be entertained by one of those incidents of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.

In this case it's Melbourne's booze patrol coming across a patently drunk driver whose car has ended up in a prang with a wall on the edge of a car park.

While there is nothing funny about drink driving, the exchange between the cop and the driver – who maintains that it's not his car, he wasn't driving it, there has been no accident, and he's sitting behind the wheel only because he's 'waiting for a mate' – is special. As it happens, the same driver looks like he was separated from Marty Moore at birth.

Moore is not only hurtling along towards an Ireland cap, which should materialise not long before 4.30pm today, but he is also pursuing a law degree. So we would like to reiterate that while the driver in question is inconveniently wearing a shirt the exact match of Leinster's blue, it is not Leinster's tighthead we are looking at. Just a bloke who looks just like him, a fact that has been mentioned many times seemingly in the Leinster changing room. It's doubtful if many of the 335,438 people who have already viewed the clip have made the connection. By close of business in Lansdowne Road today, Marty Moore's will be a more recognisable face.

It is appropriate that he has the law on his mind for it is a change in rugby's legislation – or rather a trialled change – that has opened the door on a whole new vista for the tighthead. A year ago, he was a promising prop but, at something less than 6 feet in height, one who was vulnerable to juggernaut looseheads crashing down on him when the front rows would collide at the scrum.

The new engagement sequence, which has greatly reduced the force of that impact, has put a premium on short-backed props with good strength and technique and a stomach for the fight. And that sums him up. Christmas arrived in September then when the trial started?

"I think maybe it has," he says. "It does focus more on technical ability than the luck of the hit, or getting the timing right as a pack. It means now we look at scrums and when we train it's eight to 10 seconds you can be in there, so both teams have to stay in the fight and whoever gives up first is going to be the one to go backwards."

For evidence of Moore's effectiveness as a scrummager there are a couple of go-to points this season. First there was his Heineken Cup debut off the bench against the Ospreys in October.

He arrived into the game just as Alun-Wyn Jones had made what at the time looked like a good suggestion with a penalty award: a five-metre scrum. Moore first locked it, and then loaded a nudge for good measure. There and then his stock rose another few points on the scale.

"Yeah, it was good because the year previously (in the Pro12) when I had come on against the Ospreys it was against Duncan Jones and it went quite well. So there wasn't really huge (pressure) . . . It was more about the pace of the game, at Heineken Cup level, that was on my mind. Scrum-wise and set-piece wise, I was happy enough with how I did."

Happy enough too against Castres in the next round, and then over Christmas he had one of those redemptive moments in the league tie with Ulster when Tom Court looked set to dismantle him only for Moore to readjust and turn the tables.

"We had a look back at that afterwards and it re-emphasised the eight-man effort – that the flankers needed to keep their heads down rather than looking for the ball," he says. "Looking back at that, it was huge, because my flanker that day, Rhys (Ruddock) or Jordi (Murphy), really helped me out, and worked me into that space where we could win a penalty. It wasn't all my work."

Moore won't be 23 until March, so he's certainly the youngest and perhaps the brightest tighthead prospect to come so far from the academy system. He started early in life though.

His background is more Kildare GAA than rugby, but something about his shape and dexterity cut him out for the oval ball more than the round one. Sunday afternoons were spent traipsing the length and breadth of the land following the Lilywhites, but he says his granddad gave up on him being a GAA footballer and settled for rugby being his thing.

Barnhall was only around the corner from the family home in Leixlip, and Moore's uncle, John Farrell, had already broken ground there as a scrumhalf who played into his 30s. The nephew would get to know the perimeter of the place as well as the pitch.

"My granddad, since I was about six, had me doing laps of Barnhall every day and doing press-ups and stuff like that," he says. "He was a coach in that sense of the word. He had me on the back roads of Barnhall, doing runs. He did the same with my uncle – something to keep fit.

"He has been a big influence. He and my dad. I don't think they've missed a game in five or six years. The two of them always travel together and it's amazing because he never had much interest in the rugby but since I started as a kid, he has been really good and would have been the one, along with the parents, who would have ferried me to and from games."

For secondary school Moore went to Castleknock, and by under 16 had been picked up on Leinster's radar for developing schools players. The summer after his Junior Cert was spent as part of that squad, training with Gerry Murphy and Richie Murphy, and understanding a bit more about what it would take to become a professional player.

The route from there – age-grade representative teams and a place in the academy – is negotiable certainly if you have the makings of a tighthead prop. By the time he got to club level with Lansdowne, he was, along with fellow Leinster front-rowers Tom Sexton and Jack O'Connell, laying waste to other scrums en route to an AIL medal last season. What moved him along though was the nine-to-five grind against the likes of Stan Wright, Cian Healy and Heinke van der Merwe.

"Obviously, you are not really in the spotlight when you are training away in the academy – it's always the way," he says. "There are a lot of really competent players in there. People don't know you until you get your chance in the spotlight, I suppose, and there's a bigger audience seeing what's happening. Leinster were very good in the way they got me ready for that.

"With the senior squad, I have been training for the last two-and-a-half years, doing scrum sessions against the lads, so it's good in a way you're not training away with a younger group and then thrown in at the deep end. They are not putting players out there without prior experience."

For Moore, he's still on the shy side there, with only 10 starts for Leinster before last weekend's positive debut for the Wolfhounds in Gloucester. The target – and it's eminently reachable – is not just to be Ireland's starting tighthead in the 2015 World Cup, but to go into that tournament with enough caps in his wardrobe to take up some space.

Already he is fairly mobile, and has quick enough feet, but the road to a better body shape is only partly travelled. He says that Monday mornings are uphill for him if he hasn't had enough game-time over the weekend. You'd imagine it's the same incline and more if his diet hasn't been counted to the calorie.

To have got this far so quickly though has him transfixed.

"The thought is incredible, so hopefully if I get the nod to get on the field, I'll be really excited and make sure I play to my role and fit in. That's what Joe talks about. If new players get their chance that they fit in. That's my big ambition at the moment."

When it comes it won't be as if he's squaring off against someone he knows nothing about. Moore's track record against Scottish props in the Pro12 is good.

"Yeah, that's the good thing about this season, especially with the amount of game-time I've had, I've played against most of the lads who are on the international circuit. (Ryan) Grant, I haven't had a whole load of time against, but (Alasdair) Dickinson as well, and Moray Low even at loosehead when he comes across the scrum, I've had experience playing against those lads and Ross Ford the hooker. It's not an unknown we're going into."

Maybe not. But it will be quicker than anything he has ever experienced, even if the pace has dropped a bit by the time he gets off the bench. What is certain is that he'll be a bit better known outside of Leinster and Ireland by the end of it.

For now, it's more a case of waiting for a cap than waiting for a mate.

Irish Independent