Trimble vows to strike right balance to impress Schmidt
Discarded Ireland wing Andrew Trimble knows what it will take to force his way back into the international reckoning.
The Ulster man didn't need new Ireland coach Joe Schmidt to tell him just what it will take to please Mr Perfection. Trimble won the last of his 50 caps on the summer tour, having been excluded by Declan Kidney from the entire Six Nations campaign.
But when Dave Kearney returned from injury at the start of this season, Trimble was overlooked once more and it was the Leinster man who got the opportunity to shine for his erstwhile mentor during November.
"I've had a good few chats with Joe, especially when he didn't select me initially for the squad," said 29-year-old Trimble, who was at least called up to the squad when Fergus McFadden broke his hand.
"I was obviously disappointed. But then I was already aware that I had a few things of my own that I was disappointed with and which I needed to work on in terms of my game.
"It's up to me. I suppose I don't really need Joe to point them out. I'm not going to stress out over it. I'm aware that there are opportunities there for me that might come in the future, but I have to make them happen."
Before the summer rout of Canada, Trimble's last outing in green was against South Africa this time last year.
Twelve months on, though, he was on the other side of the TV cameras, joining the ever-expanding roster of pros who seemingly cannot wait to link up with the dreaded 'meejia'. He just wanted to play rugby.
While being released from camp Ireland last week ahead of the All Blacks Test was clearly disappointing, its inevitability was liberating and it afforded him the chance to shine in the Pro12 win over Edinburgh.
Already, he is seeing evidence of what Schmidt requires of his players -- Trimble just doesn't want to lose the qualities that earned him his first 50 caps.
"I'm more conscious now of the type of winger that Joe is looking for," said Trimble. "He's looking for someone who is accurate, who is physically dominant, who knows their role inside out and performs a lot of small areas of the game very, very well.
"So it's important that I did a lot of extra work and make sure that I tick all those extra boxes and sharpen up on some skills and footwork. There are issues there that were already present at the start of the season.
"He demands so much from his players. Joe isn't overly concerned about a winger that breaks a gain-line and scores tries from halfway. He looks for a winger who does the simple stuff very well, presents the ball at ruck time accurately all the time, accuracy in kick-chase and reception. Every little thing.
"He has to do everything to make the team tick. It didn't blow me away when Joe said it. I knew all that already. It wasn't like, 'lo and behold I'm not the full package'.
"But I don't want to think about the game so much that I forget what makes me a good player in the first place. I have to get the right balance.
"The game changes quite often. Six months or a year down the line the game will require more. But now the core skills are the massively important focus for Joe and the Ireland team. It's important that I buy into that."
No more than Leinster and Munster, Ulster thrived in the limited November window available to them, winning both their games and remaining on the coat-tails of the all-important top four in the Pro12.
A visit to Zebre this weekend represents a must-win opportunity for the province as they seek to cast aside the deep disappointments of losing both Iain Henderson and Rory Best to injury, compounding the loss of the gifted Stuart Olding.
"I think we're better prepared this season," he said. "Last season we struggled when we didn't have the depth that we have now. " It's happened earlier for us this season but we're in a far better position to cope.
"It's so tight. One slip-up and you're out of the top four. This weekend we have Zebre and if we're challenging to win the Pro12, we're going to have to beat Zebre.
"Whatever side eventually wins the league will have done that. So we mustn't lose out."