Versatile back Luke Fitzgerald is ‘really buzzing’ to get back out on the Croke Park pitch again this Saturday, admitting that he does not mind being moved out to the left wing.
Declan Kidney’s selection for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash with France has placed Luke Fitzgerald out on the left wing, a position he has never played for Ireland in.
The Leinster youngster made his Test debut on the right wing against the Pacific Islanders in November 2006 and since then he has been used more often than not in the centre.
He was ever-present at inside centre during last November’s GUINNESS Series but insists that the current competition for places is so intensive that getting a starting spot – no matter what the position – is all he wants.
Speaking ahead of his first RBS 6 Nations start, he said: “The competition in the back-line is very exciting. Obviously it can be tricky enough when you’re trying to get into the team!
“I suppose it’s a double-edged sword in that sense – you’re delighted that there’s so much competition for the Irish team but at the same time it’s tough to get in.
“I think it’s great for the game overall. It’s much more important to have that competition and hopefully it will drive us on to bigger and better things.”
With Keith Earls out injured, Fitzgerald is ‘the baby’ of the Irish backs at just 21. Full-back Rob Kearney (22), winger Tommy Bowe (24) and scrum half Tomas O’Leary (25) also add a youthful look to the back-line.
When asked about his preferred position, you get a sense of just how committed Fitzgerald is to the cause.
“Full-back is the one I really like. There’s so much competition there, I just can’t seem to get a look in.
“Full-back and I suppose centre afterwards – but I’ll take whatever I can if I can get on the team! I’m delighted to be included for the weekend, it’s such a big occasion.
“To beat any French team at any time would be fantastic for the confidence. I don’t think anyone is lacking in confidence at the moment, I just think everyone is looking forward to getting out there and showing what we can do at the weekend.”
The last time France visited Croke Park, a last-gasp try from Vincent Clerc robbed Ireland of victory and a possible Grand Slam.
That game, the first rugby international to be played at the Jones’s Road venue, will not be used in a motivational sense for Saturday according to Fitzgerald – particularly as Ronan O’Gara is the only player from Saturday’s back-line who played that day.
“I think that’s kinda in the memories. I don’t think it will play any significant part in the game. We’ll just take it on its own merits,” Fitzgerald said.
“It’s always going to be very difficult to play against France, so you don’t want to bring any baggage into it.
“It’s very important for us just to to go in and perform to the best of our ability.”
The Dubliner reckons that if O’Gara and company opt to put boot to ball more often than not, Ireland must put pressure on with their chasers as France are well known for their counter-attacking abilities.
“You have to be very careful getting into that kinda of (kicking) game with the French. If you’re going to get into that game, your kick chase becomes really important.
“They have such fantastic open-field runners and they’re very dangerous if you give them any space.
“I’d say we’ll probably be hoping not to get involved in too much aerial ping pong, or, if we do get involved in that, to have a really big chase line.”