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'It is tough': O'Loughlin trying to put Six Nations omission to one side

The centre starts for Leinster against Edinburgh in the Pro14 tonight.

O'Loughlin knows he needs to produce a couple of big performances now that he's back fit.
O'Loughlin knows he needs to produce a couple of big performances now that he's back fit.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

RORY O’LOUGHLIN HAS been here before.

After making his Test debut against Japan last June, he was left out in the cold for Ireland’s November series, told by Joe Schmidt he wasn’t far away but needed to work on a couple of things.

With Bundee Aki eligible to represent Ireland, Chris Farrell back in the IRFU system and Stuart McCloskey having enjoyed a powerful start to the year with Ulster, O’Loughlin had fallen down the international pecking order.

Schmidt threw him a mountain of work, but the main thing was he needed minutes for Leinster. Injuries didn’t help, nor did missing the province’s Champions Cup games in December and January. Again, he was overlooked.

“It is kind of tough. You just have to get on with it,” he says.

“Joe rang me again to explain the decision. It is really just you have to put yourself in the shop window by playing the European games.

“That was my goal coming up to those games. I didn’t really gain enough momentum or form consistently enough to get selected.

“I was still hoping there would be an outside chance. But, I kind of new I wouldn’t be in it. It was the same reason as in November. That took a day or two to get over that.

“Then, you focus on what’s next. There is an opportunity here at Leinster to get games. There are four games and I hope to be involved in the majority of them.

“I will look to get momentum and form and get selected when the European games come around again.”

Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Tonight is big for O’Loughlin. He starts in the Leinster midfield alongside Noel Reid against Edinburgh at Myreside for his first appearance since New Year’s Day. The 24-year-old just needs to play rugby.

“Yeah, you can’t look too far past that or someone will come up and take your spot,” he continues.

“You have to see the bigger picture when these games come around. It is an opportunity that mightn’t be there at the end of the season, if you don’t play well.

“I do put myself under pressure to perform. If you are performing consistently coming in the big games, the coaches find it hard to drop you, no matter who comes back.

“That is the main thing. You have to be playing well. You can’t have mixed performances. They are not going to pick you.

“They’re not going to go away from someone who has put in performances in those big games in the past. For me, it is about taking it game-by-game, but, also, putting in performances.

“Bringing out my best performances this season is what it is going to take to get into that team for Europe.”

O’Loughlin, with 33 Leinster appearances, will be one of the senior members in Leinster’s team this evening, with Leo Cullen handing flanker Will Connors a debut in a youthful back row containing Max Deegan and Josh Murphy.

The province are on a five-game winning streak in the Pro14 but will face a stern test against Richard Cockerill’s side, who sit fourth in Conference B.

Rory O'Loughlin Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“We watched the review of the last time we played them in the RDS,” O’Loughlin added, speaking of the 21-13 win over the Scots back in September.

“They put us under a lot of pressure. We didn’t have a good game. It was hard to watch it back even though we won. I think we’ve come on a long way since then.

“There will be a lot of players playing this week that haven’t played in a while. It is all about getting cohesion and confidence in the squad during the week.

“They are in good form. They have won eight games out of 13 and their defensive record is very good as well.

“We know they are going to be putting us under a lot of pressure. We need to be on it.”

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