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'You feel like a bit of a kid when you've got Paul O'Connell next to you!'

Connacht tighthead Nathan White made his Ireland debut against Scotland yesterday.

NATHAN WHITE BECAME the third oldest Ireland debutant of all time yesterday when he replaced Mike Ross with 51 minutes of the 28-22 win over Scotland gone.

The New Zealand-born tighthead prop turns 34 early next month, so to say he’s had to bide his time for a chance in Test rugby is something of an understatement.

Nathan White White was one of two Ireland debutants yesterday. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

White, who had previously played Super Rugby with the Chiefs, arrived at Leinster under then head coach Joe Schmidt in 2011. Though not a starter, the front row played seven times as the eastern province secured their third Heineken Cup title.

When his one-year deal with Leinster elapsed White headed west to Connacht, where he has been excellent over the past three seasons. Schmidt has never lost sight of White’s quality and was finally able to hand the naturalised prop his Ireland debut yesterday.

They always say your first Test goes pretty quick and that 30 minutes went very fast,” said White at the Aviva Stadium afterwards. “I think we only had three or four scrums out there so as a tighthead that’s your main job. You’ve got to do it and do it well.”

White qualified to play for Ireland on residency grounds last year, and appeared to be heading for his international bow in the November Test series before a horribly-timed arm fracture ruled him out.

The 33-year-old fought his way through the rehabilitation of that injury and again looked set to feature for Ireland in this year’s Six Nations, but a worrying lumbar spine issue in his back cruelly denied him the chance.

White could have been excused for thinking his chance might never come, but he is thankful for the faith Schmidt has shown in him.

Nathan White White lines up for Ireland's anthems. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“He certainly has, I don’t know how many coaches would,” said White. “He’s shown a bit of faith and given me a crack.

“When I injured my arm back in November that was very disappointing, but then to come back and play a few games and injure my back again, there’s a few demons in the head then.

Connacht kept faith in me too and it really made me determined to do things right by them, get myself right and this opportunity came along. Those dark days in rehab, I certainly had the carrot to get back and push hard for the squad.”

White says his involvement in the training camps last November and before the Six Nations helped when it came to making his debut against the Scots, his awareness of the role he had to play being at a strong level.

The Connacht man also credits Ross as having “been really good for me” since he first arrived in Ireland, impressing White as “a guy who doesn’t try to do too much” but performs his core duties with consistent excellence.

The impression post-game was of a man who hadn’t been too flustered by the occasion of his first Test, but though he is ten years older than fellow debutant Jack Conan, White admits there were a few butterflies for him too.

Nathan White and Greig Tonks White lines up a tackle on Greig Tonks at the Aviva. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Certainly, you feel like a bit of a kid yourself when you’ve got Paul O’Connell out there next to you! Guys you’ve watched for a good while,” said White. “You just cherish the moment.”

What next for White? He wasn’t part of Ireland’s original 45-man extended World Cup training squad named before the pre-season began, but Marty Moore’s rehab from shoulder surgery and a thigh niggle for Tadhg Furlong saw Schmidt turn to him.

There is little certainty for White, but with his experience, leadership qualities and the trust of Schmidt, a trip to Cardiff in mid-September is a possibility.

What I’ve done on the field, if he’s happy with that I might get the call on Sunday (today),” said White. “At the moment, I’m going week to week and he’d usually give me a call on a Sunday night to get me in.

“Hopefully later on I’ll find out what I’m doing. Marty Moore is obviously close to being back as well and Michael Bent covered tighthead last week, so there’s plenty there.”

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