Saturday 19 October 2019

'I had massive fear of missing out' - Fergus McFadden and Luke Fitzgerald on the pressure of being a standby

13 February 2011; Ireland's Fergus McFadden, left, and Luke Fitzgerald sing the National Anthem before the game. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v France, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
13 February 2011; Ireland's Fergus McFadden, left, and Luke Fitzgerald sing the National Anthem before the game. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v France, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
17 December 2011; Luke Fitzgerald, Leinster, is congratulated by team-mate Fergus McFadden, left, after scoring his side's second try. Heineken Cup, Pool 3, Round 4, Leinster v Bath, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Tony Considine

With injury concerns still creating headlines as Ireland's build-up to their World Cup opener intensifies, a different kind of pressure is also building on those players cut as the extended squad was reduced to 31.

In addition to dealing with the disappointment of missing the plane, the limbo they find themselves in was highlighted last weekend. As doubts over the severity off  Robbie Henshaw's injury grew, Ulster's Will Addison found himself pulled from his province's starting line-up just before kick-off in case he had to travel to Japan.

Although the call hasn't come for Addison, the likes of himself and Leinster's Devin Toner will be acutely aware that they're one injury away from a call. It's a position that Independent.ie's two Left Wing panelists, Luke Fitzgerald and Fergus McFadden, can relate to with both having missed previous World Cup cuts.         

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Luke Fitzgerald dodges the tackle of Santiago Cordero

"Obviously it's a gutting experience to go through not being selected but it was one of the most important experiences in my rugby career in terms of resilience and building character," Fitzgerald said about his experience in 2011.  

"You need to maintain, at least on the exterior, some sort of version of yourself where you really want to be there and put in some great performances. It worked out well for me over the next couple of seasons but it really hurt at the time,"        

"I wasn't waiting by the phone. If you get called out, you get called out but you try and move on as quickly as you can.

"I was really hurt the few days after but Leinster were brilliant in that period, they got me straight back out into the team. You're watching the games and you're gutted you're not there but you're also focussed on your own role and trying to make an impact on the young guys." 

Ironically, when Fitzgerald finally made the final squad for the World Cup in England four years later, it was at the expense of close friend McFadden who remained behind to start Leinster's season in a reverse of the 2011 scenario.

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Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll celebrates with team-mate Fergus McFadden after victory over Australia in 2011

And having been part of the Ireland set-up in New Zealand '11, McFadden found focusing on the domestic game exceptionally difficult as he watched his team-mates play across the water.  

"I had massive FOMO [fear of missing out] in 2015. It was tough to have my head fully there for the first few weeks which I'm sure a few of the lads are finding at the moment," he explained.  

"Your confidence takes a hit. You've got that belief for the full pre-season that you're one hundred percent going like every player during that block (of time) does.  

"For me it was more a confidence thing. The confidence took a hit for a few weeks and once I got a couple of games under my belt for Leinster I was back up and running. You've a few weeks where you have to let it sink in and then go from there.

"I definitely watched in 2015 and would have loved to have been over there in the 31 at all .A lot of players can go over and things can just fall one way or the other. I watched Luke come on and score that try that nearly got us back into the (Argentina) game which was pretty impressive."      

While McFadden's own World Cup hopes ended this year after missing the end of last season, the Leinster man is certain that, should the call come, those left at home can move into World Cup mode relatively quickly.   

"You'd like to think they'd still be switched on," he added.

"Devin Toner is one injury away from going, maybe even to one of the back rows. You could bring him over and let Tagdh Beirne cover that position there.

"The likes of him and Will Addisoion will need to be on standby but just getting over the initial disappointment is difficult. I'm sure it's going to be tough for the boys seeing all the social media of what the lads are doing over there and the start of the tournament but you just have to stay ready."

The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast is brought to you in association with Aldi.  

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