Just under two years ago, Luke Fitzgerald made his Ireland senior debut as a teenager against the Pacific Islanders. That game witnessed the end of an era, with it being the last international fixture at the old Lansdowne Road.
Fast forward to the current season and Luke Fitzgerald, now established as an provincial player of high regard, is on the cusp of his first string of consecutive Test matches.
Fitzgerald’s opportunities were limited under the previous coaching regime but he did make two appearances as a replacements against Wales and England during the 2008 Six Nations.
The GUINNESS Series 2008 presents the 21-year-old with his first real chance to bed himself into the Ireland side.
He slotted in at inside centre for Saturday’s 55-0 victory over Canada in Limerick, providing a foil to skipper Brian O’Driscoll, and will be hoping of starting again next weekend against New Zealand at Croke Park.
Fitzgerald lasted the full 80 minutes against Canada and even finished the game in a centre partnership with debutant Keith Earls, who joined him in midfield after O’Driscoll’s departure from the pitch.
With Earls’ debut overshadowing the build-up, little was made of the fact that this was only Fitzgerald’s second Test start for Ireland and his first international appearance as a number 12.
Happy with how things went, he said afterwards; “Everyone’s delighted with the win. Canada played with a lot of pride and it was a very physical encounter so we’re delighted with the win.
“(Personally speaking), it’s always great to play with Brian. He’s such a great player and a great leader.
“This was our first time playing together in the centre and it was a great honour to play alongside him.”
Ireland made the best possible start, scoring a try through full-back Earls in the third minute and Fitzgerald was the man to provide the try-scoring pass.
“That first try was a nice way to get rid of the nerves.
“It was great for Earlsy to get a try so soon, that really settled him down. I was delighted for him,” added the Leinster flyer.
Let down by a flood of mistakes, Canada played nowhere near their potential but Fitzgerald felt that they provided a tough test for the first game of the Declan Kidney era.
“Canada were always going to be tough to play against. They’re a very physical outfit.
“The weather was also a challenge for us. When the conditions are that bad, it’s going to be tough to play the kind of rugby we want to play.
“It was a case of trying to hold onto the ball and go through the phases, break through a bit more through the pack instead of the backs.
“I think we struggled in that third quarter but when the weather ceased to be so influential in the game, we played quite well and got some good tries.
“So we’re really happy to get this win behind us and it’s a good platform going into next week.”
Asked about the coach’s reaction in the dressing room afterwards, Fitzgerald said: “Declan did say he was happy with the performance but that there’s obviously some parts to work on.
“To win any Test match is fantastic, and particularly by that margin. He was delighted with the squad and getting game-time for all 22 players.”