Kilcoyne relishing opportunity to wear green jersey
Munster pop Dave Kilcoyne is determined to make the most of his chance to impress on the international stage after being selected in Declan Kidney’s starting XV to take on Fiji in Saturday’s showdown at Thomond Park (5.30pm).
After making his senior debut against Connacht in last season’s RaboDirect PRO 12, Kilcoye has come to prominence for Munster this season and is now competing with experienced South African loosehead Wian du Preez for a regular starting place is Rob Penney’s side.
Saturday evening will see the 23-year-old join Leinster hooker Seán Cronin in the front row alongside Mike Ross who is one of just three players – along with Conor Murray and captain Jamie Heaslip - to retain their place in the starting team after last weekend’s defeat to South Africa.
The 16-12 defeat in the Aviva Stadium saw Kilcoyne earn his first Irish cap when he made a brief appearance in place of Cian Healy who was being assessed for signs of concussion.
As Saturday’s encounter is not a Test match, Kilcoyne and the other peripheral squad members won’t earn a cap.
The UL Bohemians man refuses to dwell on that detail however stressing that the squad are preparing as they would for a Test match and he believes the experience will be all the more special in the familiar surroundings of Thomond Park.
“For me and the rest of the squad we’re treating it as a Test game so we’re putting no focus on that, that’s irrelevant to us,” he said.
“For me it is a special time and for my family, especially playing in Thomond Park, it’s my home ground so I’m relishing the opportunity.
“Hopefully it’s a chance to lay down a marker and we’ll see what the coaches do from there.”
Fiji currently sit six places below Ireland on the IRB World Rankings in 14th. The Islanders are renowned for their expansive running game but have traditionally been vulnerable at the set piece.
The line out was a major problem area for Ireland in the first half against the Springboks while the scrum showed signs of creaking before the introduction of recent acquisition Michael Bent.
Kilcoyne knows that Ireland have an opportunity to get on top in the set piece on Saturday and he admits the coaches have put an emphasis on that area in training.
“They’re a very physical team and I think that will tie into our game plan as well. We’ll try and match and beat them physically.
“Gert (Smal) and Deccie have put a lot of time into our set piece – our lineout, our maul and our scrum – so that will be a big area of focus. This week we’ll really look to that to try and exert a bit of pressure on them.
“The game plan is to be dominant in the scrum. We don’t want to mess around with the scrum and keep the ball in there, we use it as a platform to get the game plan going so there will be nothing different from that point of view.
“Feeky has done a lot of work and put in a lot of time this week with the new setups with myself, Seán and Mike working together and the lads, Cian (Healy) and them coming off the bench.
“It’s just a different front row and it’s takes a bit of time to get used to but we seem to be clicking quite well. “
Ireland’s scrum has been a focus of attention since England demolished the Irish set piece in Twickenham last March.
Michael Bent was parachuted into the Irish squad to provide cover at tighthead but it is Ireland’s starting number 3 that has impressed Kilcoyne in training.
“Mike (Ross) is a brilliant scrummager, he’s renowned for the damage he does in at scrum time. He’s a very effective player and I think he’s going to keep improving all the time.”
Having earned his first Irish cap less than a year after his first Munster appearance, Kilcoyne has enjoyed a speedy rise to the international arena but with so many of his Munster teammates around him he is by no means out of his comfort zone.
“I’m loving it up here so I’m going to try and stay here,” he said. “There are differences in game plan and structures but rugby’s a simple enough game.”
“There’s a lot of Munster players up here. I’m rooming with Donnacha Ryan who I’d be very friendly with back home so there’s not a huge amount of change up here for me anyway.”