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The Wide Boy’s Wide Awake

The Wide Boy’s Wide Awake

On Saturday Justin Bishop will win his 23rd cap for Ireland, which isn’t that remarkable given that he’s a player who holds the record for most European Shield appearances for London Irish

On Saturday Justin Bishop will win his 23rd cap for Ireland, which isn’t that remarkable in itself, given that he has pace to burn, is as bold as brass and just as brave, and holds the record for most European Shield appearances for London Irish. But at a time when commentators are complaining – and perhaps with some justification – that internationals caps are being demeaned by replacements who run on in the closing stages – Justin Bishop holds the distinction of having won each and every one of his caps as part of the starting line-up. John Hayes is the only other member of Saturday’s squad who shares the distinction.
Bishop was born in Crawley West Sussex and while at The West of England University he was capped at Under 21 and Student level for England before switching allegiance to Ireland.

He joined London Irish in 1994 and in November 1995 played on the Ireland Under 21 side that beat England 23-10 at Northampton. His team-mates that day included current international colleagues, Malcolm O’Kelly, Eric Miller and Kieron Dawson. His first A cap came as a replacement against Canada in Ravenhill (Nov ’97) and on the summer tour to South Africa he won the first of his 22 caps when he played in the first Test against the Springboks (June 13th) scoring his first international try. He played again in the second test and in the November RWC qualifiers against Georgia and Romania and was a regular on the side through the ’99 Six Nations, the tour to Australia and ’99 World Cup.

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The return to form of Denis Hickie and the emergence of Shane Horgan restricted his appearances on the senior side to three games through 2000 and 2001 but he travelled with the squad to New Zealand earlier and played in both Tests against the All Blacks.

Opportunity knocked again when he was called into the squad for the autumn international against Fiji and he grabbed it with both hands in that game, scoring his eight international in a performance that helped him retain his place for the game against Argentina in the face of strong opposition from Geordan Murphy.

Naturally, Bishop is delighted to be back in the side to face the Pumas. I was very happy with my game on Saturday but Geordan played really well and I knew it was going to be a close call. I was just thrilled to get the nod and I’m really looking forward to Saturday’s game.

But then you get the impression that Bishop looks forward to most days. He has made 181 appearances for London Irish but almost broke with the club last year when he seriously considered a move to Munster. I was approached by Declan (Kidney) and of course I was interested. Who wouldn’t be. I asked him for a week to think it over and that I needed to talk to Conor (O’Shea).

And the upshot of that conversation was that O’Shea, fully aware of the attractiveness of a move to Munster, offered Bish’ a contract. A four year one. Just to make sure that one of his most potent strike players would remain in his Irish stable.