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Dublin: 13°C Saturday 19 September 2020

'If your chance comes, it comes. If it doesn't, you keep working'

Ultan Dillane is delighted to have worked his way through intense competition to get a first Six Nations start.

CONFIDENCE IS KEY for Ultan Dillane as he heads into his first Six Nations start.

The Connacht lock has had to wait his turn for a Championship starting berth in Ireland’s second row, getting the nod for this afternoon’s clash with Italy in Rome on his 13th cap.

His previous starts for Ireland came in November meetings with Canada and Fiji, but it was his impact off the bench last time out in Murrayfield which really seemed to convince Joe Schmidt he deserved to start ahead of both Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne.

“He came on in a pressure cooker,” Schmidt said of the Connacht lock’s role in Edinburgh, “we were only up by six points and I think there were three outstanding actions from him that were really pivotal for us.

Ultan Dillane Dillane poses for pics in Carton House on team announcement day. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“So we’re looking to him to provide a little bit more of that and that gave us real confidence.”

Dillane was released back to play for Connacht in their win over the Cheetahs last weekend, raising some fears that he was not in the head coach’s thoughts for Rome. But a man-of-the-match-winning performance helped maintain his run of fine form.

Hopping in and out of Ireland camp doesn’t feel like a disruption, Dillane insists. Having spread his dozen caps across the past three years, he has not had the benefit of a consistent run in the team and he has found himself left out of squads as second row competition intensified.

“I don’t think you can look forward or plan ahead,” Dillane says in relaxed tones before boarding the team bus in Carton House on Friday.

“You have to stay moment focused and take games as they come and earn your way that way… if your chance comes, it comes. And if it doesn’t, you keep working.”

Ultan Dillane Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Rather than feel downtrodden or dispirited by Devin Toner and James Ryan’s move to the top of second row pecking order and the fierce competition in behind (not least from Connacht’s pack) Dillane is energised by the rising standards.

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“I love that competition is as tough as it is now,” he says.

“Tadhg Beirne, Hendy, James  and Devin are all in really good form. So it’s nice that I can’t expect to be up there. They’re quality players.

“And it’s such a good motivator to play well for your own province. That’s the biggest driver, knowing there are such good players to compete for a spot.”

JP du Preez and Jasper Wiese tackle Ultan Dillane Dillane carries into contact against the Cheetahs. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

On weekends like this when he has seen off all that competition, the confidence naturally flows. And the Kerryman will be further helped settle to his role with provincial team-mate Quinn Roux next to him. Roux will call the line-out an, hopefully, allow Dillane a little added freedom to go about being his destructive best.

“It’s a good boost of confidence to get a start like this as well,” says the 25-year-old.

“You get your confidence from doing good reps, but you do a lot of work off the pitch as well. It’s great to be given that chance from the coaches as well for some players getting their first start, including myself, it’s going to add depth to the team and hopefully bring us further.”

Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey look ahead to Ireland’s Six Nations meeting with Italy and discuss the week’s biggest stories in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Sean Farrell

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