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Sunday night prep yielding the right return for Munster's Kilcoyne

The loosehead made his first Six Nations start against Italy yesterday after pushing ahead of Jack McGrath in the pecking order.

IT WAS QUITE some time in the making — six years, in fact — so Dave Kilcoyne was always going to make his first Six Nations start in green count, even if the collective performance left a lot to be desired.

The Munster prop was one of few to emerge from the Roman battle on the right side of the ledger, having earned his starting opportunity on the back of an impressive run of form with the southern province.

Dave Kilcoyne with Jimmy Tuivaiti and Braam Steyn Kilcoyne made 10 carries in Rome. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Skipping ahead of Leinster’s Jack McGrath in the loosehead pecking order, Kilcoyne won his 27th cap at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday afternoon, but just his sixth from the outset and first start in the championship.

Carrying with typical belligerence into contact, the 30-year-old was one of few in green to make metres in the carry while underlining his overall dynamism and work-rate with 10 tackles.

On a frustrating afternoon for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland as they limped past Italy, it was a solid outing for Kilcoyne, who joked afterwards that it has taken him almost a decade to become an ‘overnight sensation’.

His form for Munster this term has merited inclusion as Cian Healy’s deputy, coming off the bench against England and Scotland in the opening two rounds and then getting his big chance in the Eternal City on Sunday.

“It’s such a privilege to get a start in the Six Nations, they don’t come around that often,” he said.

“A lot of blood sweat and tears goes into that and a lot of work. I was really keen to put in a good performance.

“There are certain areas I was happy with. There’s other areas I wasn’t and need to be more accurate in. You want momentum, you want to be in a team that’s gelling well together. That’s always the player I’ve been, you want to put the team performance first with Munster and Ireland. You want the team to perform and then you to perform within that system.”

Having made just two Six Nations appearances under Schmidt before this year, it would have been easy for Kilcoyne to accept his time at this level had passed him by — but the Limerick native was desperate to get back in the mix.

Hard work behind the scenes, grafting through extra sessions both on and off the pitch, has yielded the desired return for Kilcoyne, while Sunday night preparation sessions have put him in the right frame of mind at the start of each week. 

“That’s the maturity, I think I mentioned during the week I’ve close on 200 professional games for Munster and Ireland,” he continued.

“If your process is strong, I feel I’ve consistently been at a level for Munster, and you build confidence in that.

“You’re playing a lot of the same opposition week on week, and when it comes to playing international rugby it’s about trying to find those little one per centers where you think you can get better, whether it’s in training, you’re five to 10 minutes in prep before training.

“It’s true confidence in your prep. It probably looked like I was relaxed out there, but it’s because I have the prep down during the week, and that builds a bit of confidence.”

Dave Kilcoyne, Quinn Roux and Joe Schmidt during the final moments of the game Kilcoyne on the touchline with Roux and Schmidt in Rome. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

He explains: “It’s all about being really consistent, and disciplined in your prep.

“Doing the same things day-in, day-out. It’s like you’re a 10-year overnight sensation, but you’re not obviously. It’s what you do in your pre-season, and even preparing for pre-season, and onwards from there.

“Every Sunday evening I sit down and write down exactly what I need to get through in the week, in terms of my weights sessions, in terms of my diet and what I need to do in the team sessions, things I need to improve, areas I need to keep working at.

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“And hopefully you do all that every single week and it builds performances.

You have a system that works for you and you just keep trying to improve and improve and improve.

Kilcoyne will hope his performance was enough to retain his place in Schmidt’s plans for the round four game against France at the Aviva Stadium on 10 March, but McGrath — who came off the bench on Sunday — will be pushing hard to get back in the frame alongside Healy.

Schmidt’s Ireland will look to get through a body of good work in the coming days away from the intensity and pressure of Test week, concluding with Friday’s open training session at Queen’s University RFC in Belfast.

Kilcoyne admits the mood in the away dressing room at the Stadio Olimpico was quiet as Ireland stuttered to a less than convincing victory over Conor O’Shea’s side.

“I wouldn’t say confidence is low,” he added.

We’re disappointed in that performance but we’ve still got five points from it so you’ve got to take that and we’re still in the competition but the demeanour in the dressing room afterwards was quite down and it almost felt like a loss.

“I suppose that’s the standards that are set inside in this team but to a degree, there are areas we need to address. I don’t think it’s a confidence thing I think it’s a cohesive thing in not nailing last passes for whatever reason and just not capitalising when we have a team on the edge.

“This is a really honest group and it’s about being honest with each other. Areas where we weren’t good enough, we’ll own up to that and hopefully improve going forward.”

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Ryan Bailey

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