Monday 21 May 2018

'Everyone wants to be in that squad for Bilbao' - Reid

Ireland centre is determined to enjoy his own achievement in winning 100 caps but knows there’s work to be done in Galway

Noel Reid in action against Montpellier’s Nemani Nadolo. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Noel Reid in action against Montpellier’s Nemani Nadolo. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Marcus Ó Buachalla

October 2011 and a young man from only down the road from the RDS Arena is entrusted with the reins for Joe Schmidt's Leinster side. That young man was Noel Reid and tomorrow he will become a Leinster centurion. A long way from there to here and a proud journey.

"Absolutely. Huge sense of pride. Obviously back then as a 20-year-old making my debut in the RDS and at number ten, I grew up only down the road from the RDS so it does make it extra special when you are pulling on your home jersey," Reid says.

"It's not just another club, it's the club you supported growing up and it's with some of the players that you admired as a young kid, so it was very special to make my debut then and hopefully Saturday will be just as special. It's definitely a proud day for my family and I."

Mum Susan and dad Colin will be there in Galway as will sister Jane. A few mates will make the trip as well.

"I had put in a few years in the Academy so from that debut against Aironi to now, it goes in the blink of an eye. It catches you out in the end, but I'm looking forward to it now.

"I've had some incredible highs along the way. I was involved in the last PRO12 win in 2014 and obviously won an Ireland cap off the back of that form. So it will be another proud moment in front of the family. Without their support none of this is possible so hopefully we are able to put in a performance and we can do what we need to do to secure that top spot in the Conference."

Noel Reid being tackled by Tommaso Allan and Alberto Sgarbi of Benetton Treviso. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Noel Reid being tackled by Tommaso Allan and Alberto Sgarbi of Benetton Treviso. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The journey to this point for Reid has seen him in a number of jerseys, more often than not ten or 12 and this versatility has served him well off the bench as a utility back. It's a trait he values and believes has helped him hugely.

"When I came in to the club there was Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Isa Nacewa, Johnny Sexton, and Ian Madigan. All superb players but also very adaptable.

"So I looked at them and all the things that they could do and I felt I could really benefit by having different strengths to my game. If you are then able to offer that versatility to a coach I think it definitely helps your all-round game but also your availability. It has definitely stood to me as a way of getting in and contributing to the team when called upon."

Versatility

That versatility has also been called upon this season and he has played a key role in big moments in the PRO14 and in particular during the early rounds of the Champions Cup.

"Isa picked up an injury early in the Montpellier game so I was in early enough in that game and I was then able to back it up a week later from the start against Glasgow so I was pretty happy with those games and my contributions."

The reality is that he would love another crack at that 12 jersey and no better time to be back from an eye socket injury and to be staking a claim for a jersey than this weekend in Galway.

"As a team we know the importance of the game and the permutations for us so it is pretty straightforward but at the end of the day we will bring the focus back on us and a performance that we need to deliver.

"There is the added element of John Muldoon's last game and the added energy that will bring to the crowd but again we have to be able to manage that and try to just bring that focus back on us.

"But you are right. This is about more than just this game and for a lot of us it's a chance to put the hand up for Bilbao. Everyone wants to be in that squad and it's a massive few weeks for us all as we try to push on and get that jersey.

"We have used 53 players this season so that leaves a lot of lads that will miss out but it also brings with it a huge drive over the next few weeks and hopefully that will drive the squad to the performance that is going to be needed to beat Connacht and then to beat Racing."

It will be a special day for him leading the Leinster team out but his acknowledgement of John Muldoon who plays his last ever game for Connacht shows the learnings that go on at the highest level.

At this stage last season swap Muldoon for Ruan Pienaar and a raucous Kingspan Stadium caught Leinster cold and arguably killed momentum ahead of the PRO12 semi-final against Scarlets.

Reid played for 72 minutes that day and knows the lessons that must be learned.

"Momentum is huge so of course all our efforts will be on this game but you have to be mindful of the crowd and what that game means to them and to John.

"Last season in Belfast and the atmosphere was brilliant from an Ulster point of view and it definitely drove them on. There was a longer lead-in to the game with Pienaar walking out beforehand and the reception he got. All those things and they just kept giving the crowd something to get behind.

"But we have to try to quieten that energy and do what we do. If we can do that I am confident we can get a performance."

Muldoon is of an older generation to Reid but he's a player that he admires.

"Absolutely. Over 300 caps for Connacht and all that he has achieved in Galway. Obviously he captained them to a PRO12 title a few years back. He's a hugely tough competitor and someone you never really liked going up against because you knew you'd be in a battle but he's been a great servant to Connacht and to Irish Rugby and you'd wish him well."

Influential

Back to Reid, who turns 28 in May, he has played 17 games so far this season and as he gets into the mind-set for tomorrow's game he'll have influential people in his thoughts.

"I've mentioned my family already but also coaches that I've had growing up and that have helped me. The impact my school St Michael's had on me. I was very lucky to play with a very good group of lads in my own year but also the year above me. And then we had really good coaches.

"People like Greg McWilliams who is now over in the States and doing great work there. I'd still be in touch with Greg and we'd send each other messages. He would have had a huge bearing on my progress in school but also age grade trials and all the help he gave me.

"I'd like to think they will all take satisfaction from knowing they have played a part in me getting to this point and I'm very proud to be representing all of them."

Irish Independent

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