Sport Ulster Rugby

Friday 6 December 2019

Auxiliary back-row Trimble prepares for backlash from the Boks

Ulster star happy to revert to his normal wing role after spending almost an hour in the pack during first Test

Andrew Trimble of Ireland during a press conference in the Sandton Sun hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Andrew Trimble of Ireland during a press conference in the Sandton Sun hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Trust Joe Schmidt to think of everything. At some point in the build-up to Saturday's opening Test, the head coach gathered his wingers and talked them through the forwards' roles.

Little did Andrew Trimble know, he'd be spending almost an hour of the first Test against the Springboks packing down as blindside flanker.

Keith Earls may have seemed like a more obvious choice given his father Ger was a Munster openside and the Moyross flier often jumps in there when his province are down a man.

But perhaps Trimble's physique lends itself better to clashing with Duane Vermeulen at close quarters while keeping a prop in position and, so, it was the Ulster winger who was sent into the trenches and it went pretty well considering he even took the credit when Ireland won a crucial scrum penalty during the second half.

"We did yes," he said with a smile. "Reddser (Eoin Reddan) was giving me a hard time after. All the clueless backs like myself come running in saying, 'Well done, boys!' I was taking the credit! Like I had anything to do with it all. Yeah, happy days," he said.

"I've a small bit of pedigree as well with my dad being a terrible flanker! I was keen to get Keith in the scrum when the scrum was on the left - I was more comfortable on the other side of the pitch - but word came from the touchline that I had to make my way across.

"Believe it or not, we did actually look at the forwards' roles at one stage last week.

"I'm not sure if Joe meant it seriously but even if he meant it as a little bit of a joke, there's a little bit of seriousness there.

"There was one or two times on our scrums when I was torturing Jamie (Heaslip), trying to find out what I needed to do but it all pretty much fell into place at the end so happy enough.

"I think I'll stick to the day job for now. It was some experience, right enough, but I think I'd rather leave it there."

In 2010, Trimble was on the wing when Jamie Heaslip was shown a red card for kneeing Richie McCaw in a ruck and Ronan O'Gara followed minutes later.

That day in New Plymouth, the All Blacks ran out 66-28 winners. So what was different last weekend?

"I don't really know," the 31-year-old said.

"I wouldn't say back then we were shy of character but, certainly looking at it positively, the alternative last weekend was something. The character we showed just backing each other up.

"I really don't know what it is but something clicked and we had a lot of pride in what we were playing for.

"We dug in there and were pretty stubborn at times so there's thin margins between being able to produce that and not being able to produce that and hopefully we can do it again this weekend. Just looking at the character and physicality we showed was really remarkable."

As for this week, Trimble believes Ireland can improve at Ellis Park.

"We could maybe hold onto the ball a bit better. With ball in hand and going forward, just stretching them a little bit," he said.

"There was a few occasions when we were very clinical when we kept our shape, Jared [Payne] offloaded a couple of times, got it behind them, Murray got through and we were very clinical. Whenever we got opportunities, we tended to take them.

"So, we just need to continue to just hold onto the ball as long as we can and keep our width, keep our space and just stretch them and try to move that heavy pack around.

Obviously, when your down to 14 men it becomes a very different game-plan but to go back to 15 men, we'll just try to do what we do well."

And Trimble knows that Ireland will need to improve in the face of an expected backlash from the Boks.

"Obviously when they're hurting a little bit more there's potentially even more of a fear factor for us, because they're fighting for their lives as well. I'm sure they're getting a hard time," he said.

"I'm sure they're going to look at their performance and identify a few areas that they can improve on, and no doubt they'll get that sorted.

"We're going to face a massive backlash and we need to get better on Saturday."

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