In the six years since he made his international debut for Ireland, Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne has learnt the value of taking each and every opportunity that comes his way.
Despite the intense competition for the loosehead prop position, Dave Kilcoyne picked up his 24th cap in Saturday’s emphatic 57-14 GUINNESS Series win over the USA. However, you have to go back to a 2015 Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Scotland for his last start for Ireland.
The Limerick man is very much in the running for next year’s World Cup squad following a busy 60-minute display against the 13th-ranked Eagles at the Aviva Stadium, although he is not looking too far into the future just yet.
Speaking after the game, he said: “Irish Rugby is in an extremely healthy place at the moment. You had that performance you got against New Zealand, that historic victory. Then you had lads who were obviously gutted not to be involved in that, but they really rallied around and got the team as best prepared as they could to put in that performance.
“I think you saw how hungry lads want to be involved in that tonight. I think that competitiveness in Irish Rugby is exactly where it needs to be. I wouldn’t really be looking towards (the World Cup), you’ve a Six Nations to go yet and we’ve massive games for the provinces. You’ve got to take every opportunity, because the coaching staff here don’t miss a beat.
“We’ll be under the microscope again next week and that’s a real testament to how effective and how honest an appraisal you get the whole time. You’re constantly getting that feedback. Which is all you can ask for and it’s great.”
While Kilcoyne enjoyed a 29-minute cameo during the 54-7 victory over Italy in Chicago at the start of the month, he maintained a watching brief for the subsequent GUINNESS Series success against Argentina and New Zealand. He agrees that it is the ferocious competition for places that has Ireland in their current place of strength.
“I think you’re in the wrong game if you’re happy to be not playing. As I’ve eluded to already, that’s a testament of how strong Irish Rugby is at the moment. If you looks at the provinces at the moment, Joe (Schmidt) has a terrific system in here. The lads got to show tonight, put their case forward and hopefully give them a few headaches going forward. That’s exactly what you need.
“For a team to be winning, you need everyone to be champing at the bit and to be as competitive as you can and have places up for grabs. Ultimately that drives everyone to be better and improve standards. If you want to do great things, which this team really does and they’ve obviously done, that needs to continue.”
Since Schmidt took the reins of the Ireland team in November 2013, Kilcoyne has played 16 times under the New Zealander. He has overseen a remarkably successful period for the national team and Kilcoyne believes Irish Rugby is in rude health ahead of a hectic 2019.
“He’s the man driving the system here. He’s the head coach and he’s done some incredible things over the last few years. You look back to last week alone, that’s absolutely monumental (the home victory over the All Blacks). That’ll go down in the history books. That’s all you can ask for.
“To have that level of command at the top and then every player just pushes themselves as best they can in the environment, and it drives the environment. It brings the best out in everyone. Especially when you’ve that competition for places, it’s great.
“I think he has it in the healthiest it has probably ever been. He has an incredible environment created in Irish Rugby. That filters right down through the provinces and all can I say is, long may it continue and let’s keep pushing the standards.”
Reflecting on Saturday’s final Test on 2018, Kilcoyne felt the impact of Ireland’s bench in the second half was a key factor in overcoming the stubborn USA challenge. “I think the bench for Ireland really made a great impact tonight, which again is a great credit to the lads who came on,” added the 29-year-old front rower.
“They really upped the ante. Coming into this game the USA had only lost one game in the last 10 and they’re on a good run of form. They were quite physical tonight. They’ve some lads who are playing in the Premiership. It was a tough game. I thought, as I mentioned, the bench really delivered when they came on and that’s how it was going.”