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Wing competition heats up for Trimble ahead of Ireland's RWC warm-ups

The 2014 Six Nations winner is back in the mix for Joe Schmidt’s final 31-man squad.

AS HE RECOVERS from a season of injury problems ahead of the World Cup, Andrew Trimble is aware that he has a battle on his hands to earn a place in Ireland’s 31-man squad for the global tournament.

The Ulster man is one of 10 players in contention for the wing positions in the finalised group to travel to the World Cup, each of those men feeling confident that they will make the cut.

Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe Trimble, Jared Payne and Tommy Bowe were on hand as BT Sport announced a new four-year deal with Ulster Rugby. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A list of Trimble, Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe, Fergus McFadden, Craig Gilroy, Simon Zebo, Dave Kearney and Keith Earls offers Schmidt a range of high-quality, proven options, while Munster’s Felix Jones has also been used on the wing in the recent past.

Trimble excelled in the 2014 Six Nations but missed almost the entirety of last season with a troublesome toe ligament injury. Above all, he’s happy to be back in the current 45-man training group despite not having a recent body of work behind him.

“I was relieved, the standard is so high at the minute,” said Trimble at Kingspan Stadium yesterday.

I think there’s eight wingers in the squad at the minute and every one of them is quality. They’re all playing good rugby and they’re serious athletes, their skills are good.

“You’re looking at them going ‘right, where can I get the edge on these guys,’ but you’re struggling to work it out. There’s a lot of quality there. There’s a lot of quality in Irish rugby; Irish rugby is going in an unbelievably good direction at the minute.

“Obviously two Six Nations on the bounce and I want to be a part of that. The standard has really moved on again in the last six or seven months when I haven’t been on the pitch.

“In some ways, I’ve got to play catch up and make sure I get back in there and try and impress, get on the pitch and try and get a jersey on and play some good rugby.”

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Andrew Trimble Trimble is one of a range of excellent wing options for Schmidt. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The first target in Trimble’s mind is a return to his peak physical condition. When that is achieved, the World Cup warm-up fixtures against Wales on Cardiff on 8 August, Scotland in Dublin on 15 August and Wales in the Aviva Stadium on 29 August come firmly into view.

By the time Ireland play England at Twickenham in their final warm-up game on 5 September, Schmidt will already have finalised his 31-player World Cup squad.

They’re very important,” said Trimble of the summer games. “The squad is picked after the third one. It’s a big squad of 45 at the minute so realistically you might get one game – maybe a 60 and a 20, I don’t know.

“Hopefully I get an opportunity. If I don’t get an opportunity, I’ll be disappointed. If I do get it, I know I have to take my chance. It’s going to be difficult going from not having played any rugby to performing straight away when I get out on the pitch.

“It’s a big ask but I’m up for it.”

- This article was updated at 10.48 to include the erroneously missing Keith Earls in the list of Ireland’s wing options.

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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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