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Ireland call-up Rodney Ah You finally 'home' after enduring tough road

The New Zealand-born prop was a surprise inclusion in Joe Schmidt’s extended Six Nations squad.

Rodney Ah You has become a mainstay in the Connacht front row.
Rodney Ah You has become a mainstay in the Connacht front row.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

EVER SINCE THE introduction of specialist replacement props, a rugby weekend rarely goes by without an entire front row being called ashore after 60-odd minutes.

Long before matchday squads became 23, rather than 22, Ah You was the go-to guy. The man called up by Eric Elwood to have an impact off the bench. In his 62 Connacht appearances, the New Zealand-born forward has appeared off the bench 52 times.

Ah You is well used to late starts. Growing up in Lower Hutt, just outside of Wellington, he only threw his time, and weight, into rugby at the age of 16. Boxing was his early sporting love but rugby coaches recognised his talent and coaxed him into organised sport. He often played as a back-row but credits formers Crusaders player Dave Hewett for playing ‘a huge part in converting me to a tight-head prop’.

He was called up to the Canterbury team and featured in senior games before he was 20. New Zealand U19 and U20 caps followed but the step-up to Crusaders, and Super Rugby, never followed. Ah You gave himself another year to make the breakthrough but was frustrated and, upon hearing of Irish interest in front row forwards, made the 19,000km trip to Galway.

imageAh You goes on the run against Scarlets in his first season at Connacht. INPHO/James Crombie

During his debut season in 2010/11, all 11 appearances were off the bench. He made seven starts the following season and scored his first Connacht try. A second soon followed. Last season proved frustrating for Ah You as he played 13 games, all as a replacement.

Former Connacht player Adrian Flavin told TheScore.ie early in the season that Ah You was destined for great deeds. He said: “Rodney has come back from the summer stronger that ever. As an athlete, he is phenomenal, and his acceleration, hands and ball skills are top class. Added to that, he can play both sides of the scrum.”

This season, having been awarded a one-year contract and given some motivational words by new coach Pat Lam, the Kiwi has played 17 games. 11 have been as sub but three of the six starts have come in the Heineken Cup.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and his forwards coach John Plumtree have been frequent visitors to The Sportsground this season and have been sufficiently impressed with Ah You to include him in their extended squad. He will be doing battle with Mike Ross, Martin Moore and Stephen Archer to start at tight-head against Scotland.

A delighted Ah You expressed his honour at the call-up and thanked his wife, Bella, for her support. He said, “We made the big decision to move here from New Zealand over three years ago and we’ve never looked back. Galway is our home. It’s where our two boys were born and we love it here.

Connacht has been so good for my development as a rugby player. Working with Dan (McFarland) and Pat (Lam) has been great as they are always challenging me on and off the field and I’ve been given a real chance this season, playing in every game. I’m looking forward to getting up to camp next week and getting stuck in. It’s a great opportunity.”

The 25-year-old added, “It hasn’t been an easy road and there are a few people I’d personally like to thank for their help behind the scenes in getting me to where I am today.”

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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