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'Most of my friends are working or living abroad, it was just my move was publicised because I left Leinster'

A homecoming of sorts awaits Marty Moore next season, but for now his focus remains on developing as a player and, just as importantly, as a person during his time in England.

Martin Moore arrives Moore is in his second season at Wasps. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

‘You make sacrifices to be happy and to progress as a person and I think I’ve made the right ones.’

WHEN MARTY MOORE came off the bench in the closing stages of Wasps’ round one defeat to Ulster in Belfast back in October, little did he know that by the time the reverse fixture came around three months later, he would now be coming up against his future employers.

A homecoming of sorts awaits the 26-year-old prop after he signed a pre-contract agreement with Ulster for next season, but his return to Ireland after two years in England was not as premeditated as many would assume.

At face value, it was an easy decision for Moore to accept the offer put on the table by the northern province and, in the process, end his moratorium from Test rugby but he has never let rugby solely dictate his life choices.

Moore’s decision to take flight and leave Leinster in search of a fresh start and new life in Coventry at the end of the 2015/16 season was as much about his own personal development as a person than for rugby matters, and similarly, this next career step was considered from both points of view.

Rewind two years and circumstances dictated that Moore needed a change of scene and a combination of things on and off the field meant he followed through with his switch to Wasps on a three-year deal, even in the knowledge of the attached sacrifices and then Joe Schmidt’s late attempt to convince him otherwise.

At the time, it was seen as a surprise. A risk.

Moore was set to become Mike Ross’ long-term successor in the number three jersey, both for Leinster and Ireland having played a key role in the back-to-back Six Nations wins. He was on the pitch at the end in Paris and Murrayfield in 2014 and 2015, but hasn’t played for Ireland since. Wild geese are forgotten about under the IRFU’s zero-tolerance policy. 10 caps, and that could very well have been his lot.

But Moore has always been firm in the belief it was the right move, and holds no regrets over the way his career path forked off in a different direction — even as he watched former team-mate and friend Tadhg Furlong develop into one of the best tightheads in the world.

An increased pay packet at the Premiership club softened the blow of leaving home, as did the benefit of working under three-time Lions prop Dai Young.

“I think at the time I needed to leave Leinster as a player and kind of move on,” Moore tells The42. “It was the right move.

“At the stage I was at in my career I was willing to leave for my own interest and it might have been easier for me to say no I’ll stay. I knew the good and the bad consequences of moving to the Premiership but it’s definitely something as a life experience that has been very beneficial and something I wouldn’t change.

Chris Fusaro and Rob Harley tackle Marty Moore Moore came through the Leinster academy and won 58 caps for his home province. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I’ve only good things to say about it because it has worked out for me. It’s all about circumstances and more about what you want as a person rather than what you want as a rugby player because you only play rugby so many hours a day or so many hours in a week. So it’s more about the lifestyle and everything that goes along with living away from home and from family.”

In that regard, Moore knew the importance of settling quickly. He and his fiancé, Lona, found a home in the town of Warwick, not far from Coventry, and the Dubliner has had family members at nearly every game at the Ricoh Arena since his move to England.

“There was something more to the move than rugby,” he continues. “I wanted to get a fresh take on things and to enter a different challenge. Living away from home in a new environment and with new people forces you out of your comfort zone like anyone, in any walk of life and in any profession.

“Most of my friends at the moment are either in America or they’re scattered around Europe so I’m one of many of my friends living and working away from home, it just so happens my move was publicised at the time because I left Leinster Rugby.”

On the pitch, the former Castleknock College student has matured too. He has relished the demands of Premiership rugby and arrived at his new club in better shape than ever before, instantly putting an injury-disrupted final season with Leinster behind him and ending any concerns over his overall fitness.

Moore made 26 appearances in his debut season with Wasps, 13 of which were starts, as he shared the tighthead duties with Jake Cooper-Woolley and has featured 17 times so far this term, including starts in the back-to-back European games against La Rochelle in December.

The relentless of a league stocked with international-quality players in every opposition means the learning experience has been a steep one for Moore, but he has developed his game to suit Wasps’ style of play and opened up as a person in his new life away from home.

“It’s a great environment to learn in,” he says, pointing to the development of his handling and ball-carrying ability which has augmented Moore’s improved fitness levels and strong set-piece and rucking prowess. The Premiership has been evidently good for him.

“I’m happier for being here than I would have been back home,” he states. “I wanted to go away and become the player I wanted to be.”

Moore has worked incredibly hard to make his time in England a success and his work on the training paddock and in the gym has given him renewed confidence, something Les Kiss alluded to when Ulster confirmed the capture of the prop in November.

Marty Moore Moore has shared tighthead duties with Jason Cooper-Woolley at Wasps. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

While Young’s experience and coaching credentials convinced Moore to pack his bags for the English Midlands, the prospect of linking up with Kiss and Jono Gibbes again, having worked with the former with Ireland and the latter at Leinster, was a similar attraction when the province came calling.

The assumption is that any player leaving Ireland always has a return date at the back of their mind, but for Moore, the prospect of making the journey back so soon and a year before his Wasps contract expires wasn’t one he considered before his agent informed him of interest from Ulster.

“I didn’t start the season looking to move clubs or wanting a change,” he says.

In fact, last March, ahead of Wasps’ Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium, Moore firmly stated his desire to stay put when asked if a return to Ireland was on the cards anytime soon.

“I can’t see myself playing for anyone other than Wasps. As it stands, there’s nowhere I’d rather be,” he said, but circumstances change and opportunities present themselves.

The recent arrival of Moore’s first child, a baby girl, was a major factor in the decision to pursue the option of signing a two-year deal with Ulster, while the prospect of penetrating that Carton House bubble again was a natural lure.

“A few things clicked into place,” he explains. “There was a multitude of things and a few different circumstances contributed to the decision. I took the opportunity which was put in front of me and nothing has changed from the end of last season because I was happy at Wasps then and I’m happy at Wasps now.

“It will be hard to leave here as it’s such a good club and I’m enjoying my time here but I suppose external factors dictate that as well, the fact we will be moving closer to our families is a big thing. It’s a short car journey [home] as opposed to planning a weekend away and waiting for time off. That’s something we’ll look forward to and when you’ve got a partner and a baby it’s something you have to think about. It’ll be a big positive.

“But it was a hard decision as it’s only my second year here and I’m only really getting into things and enjoying the club. It’s not something that was on the horizon, it just kind of came out of the blue really.”

And from a rugby perspective, Moore doesn’t hide the fact he has ambitions of resuming his international career.

“That had a big bearing,” he admits. “There will be the opportunity there to be up for international selection and put your own hand up to get back in that squad. It was something I took into consideration but there’s still obviously a hell of a lot of work to put in before anything like that comes along. It’s not just handed out to anyone but when the time comes to play for Ulster, if I can do well hopefully call-ups will follow. We’ll have to wait a while for that anyway.”

Since his last cap in March 2015, Irish rugby has moved on with Moore disappearing from view across the water. Schmidt instantly turned to Finlay Bealham as cover for Furlong, and Munster’s John Ryan has 11 caps to his name now, too. Andrew Porter’s switch to tighthead may have been a direct result of Moore’s departure for Leinster, and the 21-year-old now adds further competition for the number three jersey.

Marty Moore celebrates with Rory Best after his side won a penalry Moore was part of two Six Nations-winning squads. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He knows there is a lot of work to do to get back in the selection picture, but having maintained some form of contact with Schmidt during his time in England, he hopes it will stand him in good stead going forward.

“There’s a bit of communication back and forth just to see how things are going,” Moore says of his relationship with the Ireland head coach. “It was something I knew moving away. It’s not like I came over here with the idea I’d still be in every Irish camp, I knew what the move entailed and I was willing to make that sacrifice at the time for my own sake.

“There has been communication and it has been positive and obviously with the move back now that will hopefully increase as well but I always think short-term because so much can happen in rugby, especially in the position I’m in.

“There’s no point letting myself think about Ireland before I move to Ulster, and there’s no point in me thinking about Ulster before I finish with Wasps as they’re my club right now and will be until May.”

Moore, named on the bench for Sunday’s Pool 1 clash, will be keen to make a big impact against his future club if he gets the chance as Wasps look to keep their European season alive.

Ulster travel to Coventry knowing victory would assure them of progression through to the quarter-finals, while the hosts need all five points if they are to stand any chance of advancing to the last eight.

“People are probably writing us off a little bit at this stage of the competition but we know ourselves we should be making it through to the next stage of Europe and that should drive us on to produce the performance,” Moore says, insisting this game isn’t of any more significance for him given the developments since the sides met at Kingspan Stadium.

“I haven’t let any of those external noises about the summer move come into my preparations, it’s just another big European game for us. We’re not going to be reckless, we’re going to stick to our systems and play our rugby but I suppose the pressure on us is from within, from the player group. The belief is there that we can get the result we need.”

A big weekend for Wasps, a big weekend for Moore.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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