"I probably thought that I wouldn’t play for Ireland too much again" - Stuart McCloskey
It's hard to miss Stuart McCloskey, all 6-foot-4 of him, especially when he walks in on two debutants talking excitedly about their first ever Test outings for Ireland.
The Ulster centre is fresh off another Test start for Ireland, with a solid performance and a fourth international try the reasons for pep in his step. He had been summoned from the home dressing room to speak to us press folk and give us all pieces for Tuesday [sound of the IRFU].
Frawley and Nash are still running us through their experiences of making that first start for Ireland - both lads have roomed with each other on various international call-ups, over the years and both said they were balls of nerves at certain stages. McCloskey enters the room, realises what is going on and backs away. He does not want to tread on either players' spotlight.
The newbies wrap up and McCloskey takes his seat, sharing the odd 'cheers' or remark to the reporters as they place their phones or dictaphones nearby. Still wearing his game shorts, he has swapped the jersey for a polo top and eases back in his chair when the questions start coming.
Ireland scored five tries on their way to a 33-17 win over Italy but McCloskey acknowledges 'we were a tiny bit rusty when we got close to the tryline'. "I thought we played fairly well," he adds. "The game was never in doubt. It was just that sort of clinical [edge] we missed, especially in the first half when we were on top."
Stuart McCloskey on being a specialist, and taking his chance
If someone had told me, one year ago, that Stuart McCloskey was a really solid bet to make Ireland's World Cup squad, I would have asked who, and how many of them, were injured.
The big man was a model of impactful consistency at Ulster but his international future looked bleak. Ireland had Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw to call on - two Lions and a guy who should be a two-time Lion already - James Hume looked next in line and Ciarán Frawley was showing he could be a playmaking 12.
Hume and Frawley did get injured on the 2022 summer tour to New Zealand, which McCloskey was a late call-up for. Last November, Henshaw was still coming back from his own injury and Aki was suspended for the first two Tests of a three-game block. In came the 'Bangor Bulldozer' and he never looked back. As he pointed out, on Saturday, he has started seven of Ireland's last nine Tests 'and we've won them all'.
McCloskey is aware of Ireland bringing four centres to the 2019 World Cup. Frawley and the equally versatile Keith Earls are his competition here and, to a lesser extent, Jamie Osborne but he is in a good position to make the cut.
McCloskey is with the Ireland squad as they train at The Campus in Faro, Portugal, this week. Ireland are set to be one of the latest World Cup sides to reveal their squad - likely late August - so it means the speculation on who or who isn't going to France will continue.
The Ulster centre does not even try to attempt the staid line of 'I haven't thought about it' when squad selection is raised, in the final question of his briefing.
As the chat gets wrapped up, there is a final-final question tacked on to that final question. Does being a specialist 12 possibly hinder you?
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