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'Even when I was fifth choice I was doing my own routine, training as best I could' -- Tracy primed for Ireland start

The Kildare man has been patient for province and country, but promises to grab any Test start opportunity with two hands.

Tracy gets to grips with James Ryan in training.
Tracy gets to grips with James Ryan in training.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

By John Fallon in Tokyo

HOOKER JAMES TRACY is hoping to fulfil a dream and make his first start for Ireland this weekend when they wrap up their summer tour in Japan.

The 26-year old has had to be patient to get his opportunities firstly with Leinster and now with Ireland, but he has been more than prepared for the battle.

He scored a try on his debut against Canada last November and has made two other appearances off the bench, against Italy in the Six Nations and last weekend in the 50-22 win over Japan.

“I think any competitive person in any environment wants to be playing, and if I get the opportunity I’d love it. It would be an honour to pull on the jersey again. Hopefully I do, but if I don’t, we can move on.

“I remember Ian Madigan saying to me before that it might seem that you’re a million miles away but you don’t realise how close you are until it happens because it all happens at once.

Even when I was fifth choice I was doing my own routine, training as best I could. You can’t control anything else, you just have to hope the opportunity comes, and I was lucky enough that I got one.”

With Niall Scannell and debutant Dave Heffernan also on this tour battling for the No.2 shirt, there is always the danger of trying too hard when the opportunity arises, but Tracy is taking it in his stride.

“That’s the first thing Joe says to you as a sub, it’s ‘fit in first’, then do whatever else after, but the main thing is fit in first. That was a good thing to set in your mind. I’ve had a fair few chances off the bench with Leinster, but it’s a different animal playing for your country.

“There’s that extra bit of nerves, so setting your mind ahead to ‘fit in first’, do your roles then everything else can take care of itself.”

The former Newbridge College player switched from loosehead to hooker to find his opportunity and Rory Best is the one who has played the biggest role model.

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Felix Jones and Simon Zebo Felix Jones and Simon Zebo watch over training. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“He’s been the stalwart and he’s been an unbelievable pro. Anyone you’d know who knows him talks so highly of him. And looking at him over the years I think he’s a pretty good person to try and model yourself on.”

Tracy has learned how to meet with the demands of the job, knowing that for a hooker a mistake is always highlighted more.
“In Leinster there’s Bryan Byrne, Sean Cronin, Richardt Strauss, so if you make a mistake you’re falling down the pecking order very quickly.

“So that pressure is always there and you learn the more you dwell on a mistake, the more you’ll make of it, it’s like the law of attraction, so I’ve learned the hard way, to live in the moment, and try deal with it that way. That has helped me in here when the pressure and stakes are higher.


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“I still have to throw the ball in the lineout, as if no one’s there, the old trick of imagine everyone is naked in the room when you’re making a public speech.

“It’s unbelievably hard, you’re the loneliest person in the stadium, but at the end of the day with Joe, and at Leinster, we walk about ‘the next moment’ and as hard as it is to do you have to learn to do that, because if you dwell on something it’ll make the next moment and the next moment worse, and it’ll be a domino effect,” he added.

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John Fallon

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