McCloskey impatient to get Ireland career going again with cap number four

The Ulster centre hasn’t played Test rugby since November 2018.

Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey is set for a chance against Georgia.
Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey is set for a chance against Georgia.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

ASK STUART MCCLOSKEY if he has been feeling impatient for a run-out over the course of this autumn campaign with Ireland – having yet to feature on the pitch – and he’s very honest about his international career so far.

“I’ve been very impatient probably for the last five-odd years,” said the Ulster centre this afternoon.

McCloskey has three Ireland caps to his name so far but looks set to add a fourth this weekend against Georgia in the Autumn Nations Cup.

His Test debut came against England in the 2016 Six Nations, with further caps against Fiji in November 2017 and the US in November 2018, but McCloskey has been crying out for opportunities ever since.

“It’s tough,” said McCloskey of being on the outside. “There have been times where I thought I was playing excellent and I’ve been there or thereabouts for the whole time but there is plenty of competition.

He points to Bundee Aki, Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, and Rory Scannell in this regard, while also highlighting that the likes of young Ulster centres Stewart Moore and James Hume, as well as Ciarán Frawley in Leinster, are coming through now. 

“There’s a lot of talent there, maybe the most in any position in Ireland, so I have to be at my best if I get an opportunity and want to move forward,” said McCloskey.

“If it doesn’t come off, then I can go off knowing I gave it my best shot. I know I haven’t given it my best shot so far. I just want to go out there and really deliver.”

McCloskey has enjoyed working with Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and explained that there has been more contact with him since the Englishman succeeded Joe Schmidt.

“Under Joe, I don’t think there was a great deal, there were bits and pieces but I didn’t really get a lot,” said McCloskey.

stuart-mccloskey McCloskey made his Ireland debut in 2016 against England. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“With the coaching team that’s there at the minute, I think I’ve got quite a lot. They’ve told me what to work on, and I went away [and did it]. It’s the usual things really, but I think every player knows what their deficiencies are anyway, I think you’re always working on it.

“I’m always working on my kicking game, always trying to work on my passing. It’s just in terms of trying to use it in games a lot, the way Ulster play and Ireland play is probably a bit different and uses my skillset differently.”

McCloskey was ruled out of contention for last week’s clash with England when he had to get a root canal on one of his teeth but he hopes to use this Georgia game to put his hand up.

Whether or not excelling against Georgia would be enough for McCloskey to hold onto a jersey into the Autumn Nations Cup play-off game the following weekend remains to be seen, but he is hopeful this will be his best Ireland showing yet.

“It seems like a long time ago now looking back on it, that England game. I remember playing in it and thinking I did alright, I just didn’t get another go.

“Then the other two games I had, I played alright. I was playing Fiji and the USA and unless you’re tearing it up against them, you’re not getting another opportunity.

“So it’s about hopefully playing well and getting another game on the back of it, really trying to put my mark down. I think that’s something I’ve been lucky with in Ulster over the years, where I played game after game and it’s allowed me to gain a bit of form and really get a feel for the team.

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“Looking back on it, I wish I put more of my mark on that first game against England. Maybe I was just trying to fit in a bit too much.”

stuart-mccloskey McCloskey at Ireland training today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

McCloskey feels that run of consistency with Ulster means he is a better player than before as he looks to take his long-awaited chance in green. 

“I’ve added a lot. I think I had a lot of skills back then. Defensively, I think I’m a lot better now than I was, but I think everyone gets a bit better defensively with age, reading defences.

“So that’s probably the thing that’s come on most for me, in terms of knowledge and also my role in the team as a leader.

“I think everyone has added to their game over the years, everybody has to be able to pass, to put in those wee kicks in behind. It’s just trying to get the opportunity to use it.”

- This article was updated at 5.37pm to correct ’2017′ to ’2016′ with regards to Stuart McCloskey’s Ireland debut. 

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