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Dublin: 8°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

'Joe, more than anyone I know, looks at the small little details' - Trimble

The Ulster wing is heading back towards full fitness after enduring a frustrating 2014/15 season.

ATTEMPTING TO FIX up a Mini, studying towards a post-graduate degree in management and, in his own words, “making a baby” – just some of the things that helped to keep Andrew Trimble sane as he endured a frustrating 2014/15 season.

Andrew Trimble Trimble was superb in the 2014 Six Nations. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A star of Ireland’s 2014 Six Nations success, the Ulster wing originally suffered ligament damage to a toe in his right foot in October of last year. Trimble slogged his way back towards fitness only to suffer a reoccurrence of the injury in February, undergoing a second bout of surgery as his season was ended.

The most exasperating part of it was that the 30-year-old had started the campaign in scorching form, scoring four tries in four starts for Ulster.

Trimble is happily now back in the thick of pre-season as part of Ireland’s 45-man World Cup training squad, cautiously optimistic that the worst is well behind him. Though he acknowledges the competition for a place in Joe Schmidt’s final 31-man group to travel in September, the Belfast man is beyond determined to play a central role.

Trimble was in relaxed form yesterday at Kingspan Stadium, reporting that he is “way, way further ahead than what I thought I would be” in terms of his fitness.

There are still steps of progress to be made in terms of his side-stepping and change of direction, but that pesky toe injury is not causing any unexpected trouble.

The toe has been grand, really good actually,” said Trimble. “When you’ve been off your feet for a while there’s always a couple of niggles and then the four weeks over holidays, I was maybe hoping to do a bit more training than I have done.

“I got back in (for pre-season) and since I’ve got back on my feet, things have gone unbelievably well for me. I’ve been really, really pleased.

“My lungs are still struggling from being off my feet for so long but that will come. My foot, my toe and everything else… I’m running well. I’ve got back up to a good bit of pace. I’m really just so pleased to be back in the mix and back hopefully fighting for a spot.”

Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne Trimble was on hand as BT Sport announced that it is to continue its partnership with Ulster Rugby under a new four-year deal. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Trimble got back a week earlier than most of his Ireland teammates for pre-season as he looked to begin with a bang, and reports that the time off his feet through injury actually left him in an excellent place in terms of his strength and gym work.

Like the rest of Schmidt’s 45-man squad, Trimble has so far split his time between Carton House and training with his own province, but looks forward to reconvening with the national team in Galway this Saturday.

With his physical condition improving all the time, Trimble now has the task of battling back into Schmidt’s thinking in terms of final selection for the World Cup.

Having started all five games of the 2014 Six Nations triumph, scoring three tries, Trimble had almost become one of Schmidt’s stalwarts. Since then, other wide men have put their hands up in his injury-enforced absence.

Trimble takes major confidence from that 2014 experience, however, the first season he really put his hand up as a player of genuine importance to Ireland.

For me personally, I know I’ve done it before and I know I can do it again,” said Trimble. “It was a big challenge for me to get up for 2014 because it was the first time I really felt in the centre of what we were doing and what we were achieving.

“I was contributing, I was doing my bit. So for me to go from not having done that to doing that was a big challenge. It’s really important that I have that to look back on if ever something big is asked of me in the future.

“If I need a big performance or to execute a task, I know I can do it because I’ve done it before. I’d say it’s more important to me than it is for Joe.”

Jonathan Sexton celebrates scoring the opening try with Andrew Trimble Trimble celebrates with Johnny Sexton during the 2014 Six Nations. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The impression in 2014 was that Trimble was the prototype of a Joe Schmidt wing; hard-working, eager to dominate contact, excellent in the air, strong at the breakdown and always looking for an involvement even when the ball wasn’t in his hands.

Many a supporter and critic looks to moments of attacking flair from wings, but Trimble is aware that Ireland’s head coach sees well beyond the superficial.

“Joe talks a lot about how we’re systems driven and I think that’s something everyone takes into account,” said Trimble.

“If you can contribute that little bit to the team performance, that’s really important and Joe, more than anyone I know, looks at the small little details and that wouldn’t be the stuff that the commentators are picking up on and not getting the big headlines.

Joe appreciates the small things and that’s something I’ve got to keep in mind as well.”

But has Schmidt’s system not moved on since Trimble was so integrally involved in 2014? Has the Ulsterman fallen behind in knowing the crucial details?

“I thought I might have,” said Trimble. “Even just trying to remember the Ulster calls and the Ireland calls, there’s a big overlap.

“We did a session on Friday and there was a few little patterns; it’s amazing how quickly it all just slots back into place. A couple more weeks of that and plenty of homework, I just don’t want to get caught out. Anything new coming in, I just want to make sure I know what I’m doing and then hopefully go out on the pitch and execute.”

Joe Schmidt with Andrew Trimble Schmidt is a big fan of Trimble's skillset and work-rate. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

After enduring one of his most difficult seasons in rugby in 2014/15, Trimble is eager for this World Cup challenge, the enthusiasm coming from every pore on his body.

Watching Schmidt’s men go to Scotland on the final day of this year’s Six Nations and run in those thrilling tries that brought them a second consecutive title was about as difficult as it got for Trimble mentally during his stint on the sidelines.

“I just thought ‘I was there last year’,” said Trimble of being on the outside. “No one cares about 2014 anymore, apart from me. The feeling whenever you accomplish something like that is just out of this world.

“The feeling of how you’ve done yourself justice and you’ve been a part of something really special. Just watching it on TV and knowing that those guys were feeling like that, you want to be a part of that.

That moment I thought, ‘I would give more than anything to get back on my feet.’”

He’s back on his feet now alright, amped up and ready to take on the extensive competition for a place in Schmidt’s 31-man group that will head for Cardiff in September to take on Canada at the Millennium Stadium.

Last season taught Trimble all about switching off from the frustrations involved in his chosen profession, and though he enjoyed some of it, he’s still a rugby player to the very core.

Himself and Iain Henderson “trained as mechanics” after buying a pair of old Minis, attempting to soup the cars up: “His, at least, is on the road but it’s probably in worse condition than when we started!”

Andrew Trimble is tackled by Antonio Ahualli de Chazal Trimble's most recent Ireland appearance came on the tour of Argentina last summer. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Otherwise, he studied a post-grad in management through Hibernia College and the University of London.

Most importantly and life-changingly of all, Trimble and wife Anna had the small matter of welcoming their first child, Jack, into the world.

Trimble now hopes to create more memories to tell his son about in the coming years. The hard work has only started, but Trimble is built for exactly that.


Andrew Trimble was present at Kingspan Stadium yesterday as BT Sport announced that it is to continue its partnership with Ulster Rugby under a new four-year deal, which sees the two brands team up until the end of the 2018/19 season.

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Murray Kinsella

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