Trimble keeps faith on road to redemption
CIAN HEALY is explaining the concept of Zorbing -- which appears to involve climbing into a giant plastic ball and rolling down steep hills. It is one of the many adrenalin-driven adventure activities available on this trip, which are all very much to the liking of Ireland's young loose-head.
Andrew Trimble listens nearby and smiles at the impetuosity of youth. Zorbing wouldn't really be Trimble's thing. When he was in Rotorua, the winger used his downtime to take a drive in the country with Ulster and Ireland team-mate Isaac Boss and, since relocating to Brisbane on Australia's eastern coastline, Trimble has been taking in the sights of this pleasant city.
"Ach, there's lots to do in Brisbane, plenty to see, and the weather is good, so it's nice to go out for a dander," says Trimble.
"Oh sorry, it means to take a walk."
This is not to portray Trimble as some kind of old fogey, far from it, after all he is still only 25. However, while Healy bounces around full of energy and wide-eyed enthusiasm on his first senior tour, Trimble carries a far more serene air. This undoubtedly can be linked to the winger's spirituality and commitment to Christianity and, in this regard, Trimble was particularly intrigued by the Maori people the Ireland squad encountered in New Plymouth and Rotorua.
"They are a fascinating people and a fascinating culture," he enthuses. "I really enjoyed the Maori welcome we got although I didn't know what to make of it at first. Guys with sticks running around topless, screaming random words and almost hitting Drico with a spear, and this is their welcome?
"But then we went into their ceremony and a guy spoke to us for a while and it was obvious there was a real story behind it all. I don't know a lot about Maori culture but I would be interested to know when Christianity came into it because they sang a hymn 'How Great Thou Art' in Maori and I recognised the tune and then they prayed afterwards and it sounded like a Christian prayer -- I'm definitely going to read up on it."
As a Christian, Trimble is aware of the power of faith and, when we chatted in October, he spoke of his strong belief that he could resurrect his international career, which had been dormant since Eddie O'Sullivan's last game in charge -- the defeat to England at Twickenham in 2008.
Having just emerged from a two-year battle with knee and groin injuries, Trimble was determined to use this season to re-establish himself as an international force. Injuries to left-wing rivals Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls certainly helped but Trimble, who started against Fiji last November and Italy in the Six Nations, has had a strong return to form and, when he got another opportunity against the All Blacks two weekends ago, he took it splendidly.
Although it was a grim night in New Plymouth with a 14-man Ireland ruthlessly dismembered by their hosts, Trimble was electric in everything he did and was only denied the try his performance deserved by the dubious intervention of the TMO.
And yet, it emerged afterwards that he very nearly did not start that game as injury woes came back to haunt him. "Honestly, up until 10 minutes before the game I wasn't sure what was going to happen," he said. "It was a groin injury I must have picked up against the Barbarians the week before but it was nothing, I've had groin injuries in the past. It was just tightness and I tried to train through it but it didn't work.
"Most of the week I was preparing myself for a disappointment and then (physio) Cameron Steele strapped it up so that I could hardly move, anything near the groin, I don't know what he did but it came through really well. Now, it's completely gone, I feel perfect."
Always known for his powerful, direct running, Trimble showed footwork and handling skills against the All Blacks that were a level above what we could recall previously, but he puts it down more to work done in the gym than any dramatic discovery of hitherto hidden abilities.
"Yeah, it's been said to me since the All Blacks game but I don't know, it feels like people have forgotten that I used to be okay before, you know? I think I had decent footwork coming through a few years ago but I was a bit small, the difference maybe now is that I have the same sort of footwork but maybe with a bit more leg drive so maybe it looks more effective.
"When I was injured, I was able to work hard on my power and my skills. It's just been that long since I really felt confident with ball in hand. I feel very confident. It's no coincidence the guys that are doing big weights are the guys who are breaking the gain-line."
Trimble was one of the lock-down certainties to start against Australia, when he will win his 29th cap, and has a two-fold mission going into Saturday's match, the first being to earn some respect as a team.
"I don't know that they really do (respect us) in the southern hemisphere," he agrees. "But that result against New Zealand proved that they don't need to. Jerome Kaino was doing a press conference a couple of days before the game and he couldn't remember the names of the back-row.
"We mentioned that and perhaps it could be interpreted as disrespect but, at the same time they came out then and blew us away so they backed it up. We proved nothing. It's up to us to get that scalp in the southern hemisphere and earn that respect."
The second mission for Trimble is to produce a performance that firmly re-establishes him in the Ireland backline.
"I didn't get involved as much as I would have liked in the autumn and when the Six Nations came around against Italy I was playing well, picked up a little knock and then didn't get picked the next week -- it wasn't the injury, I just didn't get picked. But there's no point crying about it, if you get an opportunity you make it impossible to be dropped and that's what I want to do this time around, don't let any more opportunities slip by."
The last week of a summer tour is traditionally the toughest mentally. Thoughts naturally turn to holidays and rest (Trimble is heading to Madagascar for a week, followed by a fortnight in Spain) but there is a determination within the squad to end a gruelling season on a high note.
"We have a lot to prove. We'll be looking to play with a bit of pace and width and our fitness levels are pretty high so hopefully we'll come through. We're trying hard to keep the distractions to a minimum, we've one more shot before the end of the season and we will work hard and our holidays would be a lot sweeter if we get the win."
With all the difficulties that have beset this Ireland tour, it would be easy to see it as something of a Zorbing experience -- a wild career downhill with no control over direction or velocity. But that is to ignore the positives that have come out of this trip, primarily the development of fringe players and a more expansive game plan. Trimble is another positive and while the last two years did constitute a slide for the Ulster man, his latest dander is taking him in the right direction. Back towards the top.