Sport Rugby

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Trimble plans to put Ulster pal Pienaar under pressure

David Kelly

David Kelly

Even after 48 caps, Andrew Trimble's place within the Irish squad remains an uncertain one.

Of all the permutations that are possible when Declan Kidney names his team to face South Africa at lunchtime tomorrow, there are a couple of scenarios that may not necessarily include the northerner.

Such has been his lot.

Of Ireland's last four November ties against South Africa, Trimble has only started one, but he ferries happy memories of that occasion into this week's renewal.

And he has been keen to remind his Ulster team-mate Ruan Pienaar of the fact, six years on from his try-scoring appearance in the spanking 32-13 win against the Springboks.

"That day was one of my first caps. It was my second season with Ireland," he recalls. "It felt like was starting to impose myself and it was a performance that made me feel as if I deserved to be there. It gave me a lot of confidence.

"Chatting to Ruan Pienaar this week I told him I found a picture of me handing him off in the face. He didn't enjoy it as much as I did! But I definitely have fond memories of these guys.

"I've just missed out a couple of times playing against them. It just shows what competition there is. There's a lot of guys competing for positions and we'll find out the story soon for this weekend."

For all the talk of enforced changes within the Irish squad, and the concomitant effect that might have on engendering an urgent sense of renewal to a struggling international outfit, Trimble's motives are undeniably selfish.

"It's strange to train all last week and this week without Brian O'Driscoll and Rob Kearney," he offers. "You're so used to those guys being there, they're part of their furniture. When they're fit, they're picked. So it's unusual.

"But you have to look at the positives from these situations. With those two guys out for example, it might give us the opportunity to try something different, it may give us the chance to experiment. I don't know.

"You're asking the wrong questions. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not worried about experimentation. I want to play."

It seems likely he will be granted his wish, even if this week's selection promises to be one of the most fraught of Declan Kidney's four-year reign as Irish coach, given the amount of injuries afflicting his squad.

Added to the rehabilitation required following the Hamilton humiliation, Trimble is determined that Ireland aren't perceived as southern hemisphere whipping boys once more.

"I don't think that represented Ireland's level at all," he affirms. "I think when you look at our performances over the last few years we showed glimpses, we've been up and down, we've been quite inconsistent.

"I don't know if we are the team that performed in the second Test or the team that performed in the third Test.

"We were very close to beating the All Blacks in the second Test, so I think we'd be weak-minded, a little bit mentally fragile to look back and say, 'oh maybe we're just not that good.'

"Logically looking at it over the last few years, we've produced big performances -- and we know if we produce those performances again, we can get results."

Consistency remains the bugbear, particularly in terms of individual performances, in stark contrast to someone like Pienaar, who seems to always retain an unflappable air.

"He's just chilled out, the most relaxed man I've ever met," says Trimble. "He does the right thing 99pc of the time.

"He's very composed. You don't often get the same panicking or giving out to boys -- that's what you want from your scrum-half. He performs very well under pressure and does the right thing more often than not.

"And I think that's something we have got to do. We'll be doing well to get him flustered, but that's what we've got to do, to put their decision-makers under a lot of pressure, put them on the back foot and slow down their ball.

"At that stage then we have to ask big questions and see if he's as calm under the pressure we'll put him under."

Irish Independent

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