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Quinlan Delighted To Be Back In Green

Quinlan Delighted To Be Back In Green

Fifteen months after his last cap for Ireland, Alan Quinlan made his international return at Thomond Park on Saturday. Scoring at his home ground, the Munster flanker crowned his appearance against Canada with his sixth Test try.

A firm fans’ favourite, Alan Quinlan’s 73rd-minute try was one of the highlights of Saturday’s 55-0 win for Ireland over a proud Canadian side.

On as a replacement, Quinlan took a pass from Rob Kearney and crashed over for, incredibly, his first international score since he dotted down against Argentina at the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

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That barren spell gives you a sense of just how frustrating it must have been for the Tipperary man to be largely out of Ireland matchday squads for the past five years.

Indeed, since that Argentina match, during which he dislocated his shoulder when scoring, and Saturday, Quinlan has only played seven times for Ireland.

Injuries and the intense competition for back row places left him of the Ireland loop for a time but, after some heroic displays for Munster in last season’s successful Heineken Cup run, the 34-year-old is back and ready to reignite his Test career.

His 25-minute run-out against the Canadians was his first taste of international duty since he appeared off the bench against Scotland at Murrayfield in a Rugby World Cup warm-up match last year.

Gathering his thoughts afterwards, Quinlan said: “It was great, personally, to be back involved. There’s a lot of competition within the squad and I suppose it’s a new era for this team. There’s a lot of the young guys coming in, after putting their hands up.

“For me, being around a while, it’s always a great honour to get on an Irish jersey so I was very proud and happy to be involved against Canada.

“Certainly, I won’t take anything for granted. I’ll take it one game at a time and hopefully I can stay involved in the squad.

“It’s an exciting place to be at the moment, with all the new coaches. There’s a bit of momentum gathering and we’ll all keep our feet on the ground.

“It was a good result for us (tonight) and we’re very pleased with it, given the conditions.”

The remaining matches in the GUINNESS Series 2008 will see Ireland take on New Zealand, a team they have never beaten, and Argentina, their familiar foes and 2007 Rugby World Cup rivals.

Asked what can the Irish take from beating Canada, Quinlan explained: “There were lessons learned from the two games in the World Cup when we played lesser opposition, with respect to Georgia and Namibia.

“Certainly there’s no easy international matches anymore. The key this week, coming into the game, was just to be patient and do the basics really well. We’ve worked hard on that in the last two weeks.

“There were a few mistakes, there are always going to be mistakes and there’s certainly room for improvement.

“I think to keep Canada to nil was a big plus for us. Les Kiss has come in as defensive coach and there was a big emphasis on defending well (tonight) and getting our structures right.

“So, there’s a lot of room for improvement but hopefully this win will generate a little bit of confidence going into next week against the All Blacks, which, as everyone knows, is a huge, huge challenge.”

Declan Kidney faces some big calls in terms of selection for the New Zealand game and Quinlan is well aware that the fight for places in the back row seems to go up a notch with every passing season.

Not only are his Munster colleagues David Wallace and Denis Leamy pressing for inclusions in the team, but Jamie Heaslip, Shane Jennings, Stephen Ferris, the back row starters against Canada, will be doing everything to retain their starting jerseys.

Quinlan welcomes that competition, admitting that the Irish squad is thriving at the moment under the direction of Kidney and the new coaching staff.

“There’s certainly a lot of enthusiasm around the place. There’s a great work ethic from all the coaches – they’re providing great information and analysis and excellent coaching,” he said.

“It’s really exciting, no matter what age you are, to be involved in that.

“It’s very important as a group that we don’t take anything for granted. It’s very early days and we’ll be judged on performances. And we’ve to put in a big one next week.”

Reflecting back on the victory over Canada, Quinlan was chuffed to have scored Ireland’s seventh try of the night, which took them up to the 50-point mark.

Explaining how the try came about, he said: “There was a bit of a break up the left wing and a bit of interaction. Shane Horgan ran an excellent line, there were a few offloads and I just continued my run.

“I was just lucky I got a ball back off Rob Kearney – it doesn’t always work out that way – but I continued my run and I was really pleased to get a score.

“It’s always great to play for Ireland but to score is extra special,” he mused.

And ‘Quinny’ had a special mention for Munster and Ireland’s new kid on the block, full-back Keith Earls who marked his Test debut with a third minute try.

“It was great for Keith playing on his home turf, getting a score. I feel like an old man around him – I played with and against his dad Ger for years – it’s kinda strange playing with Keith now.

“He a very exciting prospect. I think the key for Keith is that he’s a very balanced young lad and is willing to work really hard.

“He’s not going to get excited about today. It’s obviously extra special for him to score on his debut.

“He has a great work ethic and a massive future ahead of him. One great thing is that he keeps his feet on the ground and that’s important for him.”