Tuesday 21 November 2017

Trimble backs Ulster team-mate McCloskey to shine for Ireland against England

Stuart McCloskey, centre, has been tipped to impose himself straight away at Test level for Ireland
Stuart McCloskey, centre, has been tipped to impose himself straight away at Test level for Ireland

Battering ram centre Stuart McCloskey has been tipped to impose his physicality on the Test arena in his Ireland debut against England.

Ulster powerhouse McCloskey will form perhaps Ireland's biggest centre pairing of all time alongside Robbie Henshaw in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash at Twickenham.

The 23-year-old has replaced Jared Payne, who has failed to beat his hamstring problem, with Connacht's Henshaw moving out to 13.

McCloskey's Ulster team-mate Andrew Trimble hailed the Bangor native's bullish running lines that could help put Ireland on the front foot this weekend.

"To say Stuart will handle his debut is probably an understatement; he always steps up to whatever is in front of him," said Trimble.

"I have been there all season with Ulster and I have had the opportunity to watch him step up to every challenge he has been faced with and it has been very impressive.

"He is a very confident fella. The right amount of confidence, but he takes his job very seriously.

"I've seen at first-hand just how impressive he's been.

"He steps up to whatever challenges are in front of him, he relishes that and it's a big opportunity for him to just impose himself physically.

"(Ireland coach) Joe (Schmidt) talked about one or two areas he's working on as well, he's not the full package yet, but he's definitely getting there.

"He's working on his passing game, his offloading, his defence.

"He'll be under pressure in defence this weekend and defensively we've got a massive midfield.

"It's something that we need to be very excited about, that physicality getting us gain-lines."

Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier will also make his Test debut on Saturday, replacing the injured Sean O'Brien at openside flanker.

The 22-year-old only made his Leinster debut in April, but has quickly proven himself a natural scavenging back-rower.

Leinster's stalwart tighthead Mike Ross admitted to being impressed by a work ethic that allowed Van der Flier to pack on the muscle in the summer.

"Near the end of last season, he took a bit of time off with a bad concussion," said Ross.

"He just worked his a**e off in the gym and became an absolute monster.

"During pre-season, I was looking at him and thinking 'Oh my God'.

"And Josh was soon delivering on it. He works his absolute a**e off in every game.

"He's a good chop tackler, is a pest around the rucks and he picks a pretty good line.

"They call him Josh van der Chopper!

"He's pretty quiet off the pitch. He wouldn't be very chatty but he lets his action speak for him.

"It's what you want to see in a young fella but as time goes on, you'd expect to see him open his mouth a bit more."

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