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Kilcoyne among 'power players' making a big impact off Ireland's bench

The Munster loosehead made his presence felt when he came on at half-time against Wales.

EVEN WITH THE game decided as a contest and the clock in the red, Dave Kilcoyne was not prepared to take his foot off full-throttle mode, and duly thundered into Ken Owens to force one final turnover.

It was the Munster loosehead’s sixth tackle of another all-action cameo after he had come on to replace Cian Healy at half-time, and one final contribution that epitomised the impact Ireland’s bench made here.

tadhg-furlong-celebrates-his-try-with-dave-kilcoyne Kilcoyne had another big game for Ireland on Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

After his superb performance in Cardiff last weekend, Kilcoyne followed it up upon his introduction for the second half, bringing energy, aggression and real physicality to the game as Ireland dominated Wales in the collision zone. 

Kilcoyne’s late tackle on Owens was not an isolated moment, rather indicative of what the replacement brought during the second 40, having also forced Elliot Dee into a forward pass on halfway by shooting up and timing his hit to perfection.

The 30-year-old is enjoying the best form of his career having emphatically skipped ahead of Jack McGrath in the pecking order, and the grunt and power Kilcoyne brings in the number one jersey is going to be crucial for Ireland in Japan.

In peak physical condition and looking leaner and sharper than ever, Kilcoyne once again showed his enterprise against Warren Gatland’s side and overall he helped Ireland finish stronger, something Schmidt’s side had done consistently throughout 2018. 

A key part of that is the impact of Ireland’s bench and we again saw the importance of having ‘power players’ to bring on in the closing stages, particularly when Schmidt’s side are likely to meet either New Zealand or South Africa in the quarter-finals.

In addition to Kilcoyne, Sean Cronin produced a number of positive contributions after he replaced Rory Best in the 53rd minute, notably ensuring the lineout improved and functioned well, while Andrew Porter brings exactly the type of brawn required.

And then there was Iain Henderson in the second row and Rhys Ruddock in the back row, the Leinster flanker announcing his arrival on Saturday with two shuddering hits. 

Given his leadership qualities, Ruddock is shaping up to have a big World Cup having endured the disappointment of missing out four years ago. 

“Dave Kilcoyne, Sean Cronin, they are dynamic,” Schmidt said post-match. “Then you’ve got a power player like Andrew Porter and Rhys Ruddock made a good impact as well.

“Jack Carty is very effective kicking, I thought he put us down in the corner really effectively and ran the game well coming on. He’s a guy who’s growing in confidence.

“It was confidence-building for those guys coming off the bench as well. Those guys did well, the power players like an Iain Henderson and an Andrew Porter, Rhys Ruddock.

“It’s great to have those guys coming off the bench.”

rhys-ruddock-jack-conan-andrew-porter-james-ryan-iain-henderson-and-dave-kilcoyne-get-ready-for-a-line-out Schmidt praised the impact his bench made against Wales. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

As for Kilcoyne, the Limerick native has continued his excellent form from the end of last season and having been number three in Schmidt’s loosehead pecking order for so long, is finally earning the rewards for his patience and persistence.

With Healy withdrawn after failing a HIA at the Aviva, Kilcoyne again seized his chance here and will travel to Japan on Wednesday brimming with confidence and in a good space — mentally and physically — to push on and perform on the biggest stage of all.

“I suppose there have been two Lions [Healy and McGrath] and myself looking for that number one spot,” he says. “That’s a good headache for the coaches. You just deliver as best a performance as you can to help everyone else around you look good. And just deliver a performance worthy of an Irish shirt. 

I’m happy enough [with my form], but there are always works-on and I’ll go away and analyse that game. There are definitely a lot of work-ons but I’m happy with the performance.

While he no doubt has his eyes on the number one jersey, Kilcoyne, you suspect, is more than happy to play his part off the bench — a role he has performed brilliantly in green over the last 12 months. 

“That’s the way rugby has gone, you have to make a big impact off the bench,” he adds.

“It’s down to the individual as well, not just down to the bench. Everyone has to be completely ready to go and deliver on what they’re asked to do on the day.

“I can’t wait to get on the plane now.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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