Wednesday 12 December 2018

'He is not here to be picked on romance' - No fairytale Dublin debut for Ian McKinley

Italy's Ian McKinley
Italy's Ian McKinley
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ian McKinley's fairytale return to rugby will not include an emotional Dublin reunion against some of his former Irish team-mates after he was omitted from Conor O'Shea's Italian squad.

Out-half McKinley was a former Leinster player who retired after being blinded in one way but he has since resurrected his career in Italy, for whom he made his debut last November.

"The romance is there but he is not here to be picked on romance," said O'Shea. "He has been unbelievable for us this week, he is pushing things on. He is here for a reason and he may still have to come on and do a job if things go wrong.

"He was disappointed because he wanted to play. I knew it would mean a lot to him. But he is a rugby player, not a story and he wants to be picked because he is the number one player and not the story.

"Sport is full of romance but the hard-nosed side of it is the guy who has the jersey is playing well and the next guy in is a points machine.

"I would have loved top pick him, I wanted to pick him in so many ways but what message does that send to other players?

"It's an amazing story, he is a force of nature. I'm sure this set-back will steel him even further and given the way he has responded to set-backs in the past, I am sure he will respond."

O'Shea has made three changes to his Italian side ahead of his first Dublin meeting with Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Saturday's second round Natwest Six Nations clash.

Like counterpart Joe Schmidt, he has resisted the temptation to change his back-line.

All three changes are in the pack – Flanker Braam Steyn, hooker Luca Bigi and debutant loosehead Nicola Quaglio come in for Renato Giammarioli, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Andrea Lovotti respectively.

Since their Six Nations debut in 2000, Italy have only beaten Ireland once, in Rome in 2013.

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