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Gilroy can add freshness to creaking international backline

Guinness PRO12 Editor

27 Dec 2011

In recent years Ireland have been blessed with ferocious forwards, heroic half-backs and colossal centres yet when it comes to the wings it’s been much of a muchness – but all that might be about the change.

Whether Ireland failed to perform or were simply outclassed by Wales in their World Cup quarter-final remains a point of debate but it certainly brought the curtain down on a number of international careers, or so we thought.

Ronan O’Gara and Brian O’Driscoll have come out fighting insisting their international careers are not over but the latter will miss the RBS 6 Nations and the former has plenty of young pretenders to contend with.

Out wide Keith Earls adds some much-needed dynamism but many see his future in filling the rather large footsteps left by O’Driscoll in the centre while Tommy Bowe seems a way off his 2009 form that made him first choice for the British & Irish Lions.

And so enter Ulster’s young bucks. Andrew Trimble made the trip to the World Cup and since returning to Ulster and RaboDirect PRO12 action he’s been blazing a trail on the flanks.

But it’s systematic of PRO12 teams this season that their widemen hunt in pairs and in 20-year-old Craig Gilroy, Trimble certainly has a worthy partner in crime.

He’s already racked up two RaboDirect PRO12 tries this season as well as one in the Heineken Cup, guiding Ulster to the top of their pool – and Gilroy’s already carved himself a sizeable slice in history.

Gilroy scored the first ever try at the new Aviva Stadium and his recent performances are suggesting it won’t be long before he returns to what was once Lansdowne Road dressed in green.

“You do think about it sometimes because you do hear people talking about how there are likely to be a lot of changes after the World Cup and of course it’s something that you dream about,” said Gilroy.

“But you do have to keep your feet on the ground and remember that the coaches make their own minds up and all you can do is keep going with Ulster.

“I’ve got a good partnership going with Andrew – he’s got a few more tries than me and I need to catch him up a bit! – but we’re working well together and that’s important as a winger.”

After a flying start to the season which saw Brian McLaughlin’s men top the early RaboDirect PRO12 table, Ulster have petered out somewhat as their rivals’ World Cup stars have returned.

Not that Ulster were without their own absentees – there was Trimble, Rory Best and Stephen Ferris with Ireland as well as Johann Muller and Ruan Pienaar with South Africa.

And now that Ulster are back to full strength, Gilroy believes his side are firing again.

“It’s hard to say if having the players away was a good thing or a bad thing,” said Gilroy.

“Obviously a lot of other teams had more away than we did but you always want your best players to play so it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.

“But we’ve put the blip that we had earlier in the season behind us now and we’re looking to build up some form was we go into the new year.”