Richardt Strauss was back training with the Leinster squad on Monday, refocusing on provincial matters after earning his first two international caps with Ireland.
Richardt Strauss started both of the GUINNESS Series Tests against South Africa and Argentina and scored his maiden try in green during last Saturday’s 46-24 victory over the Pumas.
The strong-carrying hooker turns 27 at the end of January, by which time he hopes to have another box ticked in terms of being selected in Declan Kidney’s RBS 6 Nations squad.
“The Six Nations holds massive importance and has a good history and I’m very excited about the prospect of being involved in it. But there’s a lot of hard work that has to go in for me to be in that squad,” he admitted.
“That’s why everyone has got to go back to the provinces and perform and hopefully get into that squad.”
With the impending return of Grand Slam winner Rory Best from a neck injury, the battle for control of the Irish number 2 jersey will certainly hot up.
Strauss had an impressive audition this month, getting the nod over his Leinster team-mate Sean Cronin as Ireland secured their top eight ranking for the 2015 Rugby World Cup draw.
Dubbed a ‘quick learner’ by scrum coach Greg Feek, the Pretoria-born forward ensured quality lineout ball on Saturday for the likes of man-of-the-match Donnacha Ryan and Mike McCarthy.
He played an effective role at the breakdown and also drew plaudits for a strong showing from the Irish scrum, with one memorable 44th minute shove earning a penalty and three points from Jonathan Sexton’s boot.
Reflecting on the seven-try triumph over Argentina, Strauss commented: “Obviously we’re very pleased with the result and hopefully we can keep building on that performance.
“We said in the changing room afterwards that it’s not just a ‘one time’ performance and it’s something that we have to keep working on and hopefully we can take it on to the next few games.”
Strauss barged over in the right corner for Ireland’s third try of a fiery first half display, stretching over past Martin Landajo after a well-orchestrated lineout maul.
Praising his forward colleagues for creating the chance, he said: “Well obviously, I didn’t have to do too much work (for the try), I can’t take all the credit!
“The lads did pretty well in setting up the maul and I was just lucky to be at the back of it.
“I just saw their nine coming into the maul and saw a bit of space and hoped that I would get there and was lucky enough to get there.”
Strauss’ own assessment of his first international win in green points to a home side that strived to run hard at the South Americans, profiting from clever tactics and a series of well-executed plays.
“We did what we said we wanted to do during the week. In patches we got a bit loose and they put us under pressure and it was important for us to get back into what we wanted to do and obviously we’re very pleased with the tries we scored.
“I think we did well at running hard and direct at them and that was one of our plans.
“To get any momentum off them, to get their defence turned around we were going to have to run hard at them.
“If you look at patches where we started throwing the ball around when it wasn’t on, they put us under pressure and their defence was pretty good. So, I think the lads did well to put them under pressure and force them to make mistakes.”
Qualifying to play for Ireland via the residency rule, Strauss has ‘really enjoyed’ his first experience of the Irish set-up and agrees that Test rugby is another rung up on the ladder from Heineken Cup standard.
“I had to wait longer than most lads to make my international debut and I’m really just relishing every opportunity I get,” he added.
“We’ve had a couple of big games with Leinster over the last season, but international rugby was always going to be a big step up.
“You get the best players from every country playing and it’s been a great opportunity and experience for me to be part of.”