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"I think I've won Joe over" - Craig Gilroy ready to take chance against Boks

The Ulsterman’s in line to win his eighth cap this evening.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IT’S BEEN A long time coming for Craig Gilroy.

Having burst onto the scene with scintillating try against Argentina in Dublin all the way back in November 2012, Gilroy will be winning just his eighth cap for Ireland against South Africa at Ellis Park this afternoon.

Gilroy has ​very much been​ on the periphery of selection under Joe Schmidt with his last Test start coming against Georgia in November 2014, although he did come off the bench late on ​during ​last Saturday’s frantic finale in Cape Town.

There was certainly plenty of raised eyebrows when the Guinness Pro12’s joint-leading try-scorer were omitted from the initial touring squad with injuries to the Kearney brothers and Luke Fitzgerald opening the door for Gilroy.

Now, the 24-year-old, who was the ​only ​Ulster player to make the Pro12 team of the season, has finally got his opportunity and will be looking to showcase his pace and trademark pirouette against the Springboks.

“I think for me this will be my eighth cup now and it’ll be a massive privilege and it’s a complete honour for me to be able to play for my country,” said the flying Ulster winger.

“There’s guys who go throughout professional rugby and they don’t get that opportunity, they don’t get capped by their country and I feel privileged to have had that opportunity and continue to get it.

“I think there’s some guys who are a bit older than me and they’re getting their first cap. So, I mean for me, I’m always learning, I’m always training and working hard and I think I’ve won Joe over in a way and tried to bring my little bit of what I can do, add a bit of a spark and deliver what he wants as well.

Joe Schmidt certainly demands a lot from his wide players. Pace and finishing skills are simply not enough for the Ireland head coach; breakdown accuracy, solid defence and reliable aerial skills are all key ​attributes for ​an archetypal Schmidt winger.

Gilroy has never wanted for flair or pace, but he now feels that is the more-rounded rugby player that the Kiwi desires in his set-up.

“It’s just a lot of… you get some wingers who maybe just stand on the wing and they wait for the ball,” Gilroy explained.

“I think it’s important for a winger to use his licence to come off the wing and go looking for the ball and to just have a lot of energy in all aspects of play whether that’s carrying the ball in contact or balls in the air or fielding, you need to be spot on and switched on in every aspect. That’s what Joe demands and I think that’s why he’s had such a successful team.”

There will be plenty of familiar faces across the backline for Gilroy with Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble, Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson completing a five-strong Ulster contingent.

Craig Gilroy Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Payne, who has starred for the northern province at full-back for the past few seasons, was finally unleashed in the No 15 jersey for Ireland at Newlands and the Kiwi did not disappoint with his intelligent running lines and offloading causing the Boks defence all sorts of problems.

“Jared’s absolutely world class,” Gilroy added. “You can put him at centre, put him at full-back, you could probably put him anywhere in the backline, he’s such an intelligent rugby brain.

“He uses his ability so well. He doesn’t burn too much energy, he does not run around like a headless chicken, he’s cool, calm and collected but he knows when to strike and it’s great​. ​

“A lot of times, if Jared’s coming around the corner and he’s got his hands on the ball, you know to try and track him and a lot of the time you’ll get something out of it. I’ve been on the end of quite a few passes from him and got in for a try.”

Here’s hoping he’ll benefit from a few more in Johannesburg​ today.


15. Jared Payne
14. Andrew Trimble
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Stuart Olding
11. Craig Gilroy
10. Paddy Jackson
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best (captain)
3  Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. Quinn Roux
6. Iain Henderson
7. Rhys Ruddock
8. Jamie Heaslip

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16. Richardt Strauss
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Finlay Bealham
19. Donnacha Ryan
20. Sean Reidy
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Ian Madigan
23. Tiernan O’Halloran

South Africa

15. Willie le Roux
14. JP Pietersen
13. Lionel Mapoe
12. Damian de Allende
11. Lwazi Mvovo
10. Elton Jantjies
9. Faf de Klerk

1. Tendai Mtawarira
2. Adriaan Strauss (captain)
3. Frans Malherbe
4. Eben Etzebeth
5. Pieter-Steph du Toit
6. Francois Louw
7. Siya Kolisi
8. Duane Vermeulen


16. Bongi Mbonambi
17. Trevor Nyakane
18. Julian Redelinghuys
19. Franco Mostert
20. Warren Whiteley
21. Rudy Paige
22. Morné Steyn
23. Ruan Combrinck

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