‘The first day, I let myself down and I had to work a lot harder last week’

IT WAS EASY to forget that Ultan Dillane hadn’t played rugby in just over six weeks when he came off the bench in Ireland’s Six Nations opener against Scotland.

The Connacht man simply didn’t look himself on that occasion two weekends ago, but he went some way towards redeeming the damage with an improved performance against Italy last Saturday.

Dillane carries for Ireland at Stadio Olimpico. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Dillane might not have even made the Ireland bench for Stadio Olimpico but for an injury to Iain Henderson.

Having underperformed in Edinburgh, Dillane was relieved to get another shot against Italy and understood that he needed to show more.

“I definitely found it tough [against Scotland],” said Dillane after Ireland’s 63-10 win in Italy. “I hadn’t played since before Christmas.

“It’s great to be back, it’s a privilege to come back in, but the first day, I let myself down and I had to work a lot harder last week, so it’s great.”

Dillane’s work rate was high in Rome, with six carries, a pair of tackles and three passes during his 21 minutes on the pitch, as well as one take at the front of the lineout and a handful of ruck contributions.

Joe Schmidt is a coach who places great emphasis on the importance of his bench bringing energy and ‘fitting in’ in the closing stages of Tests but that didn’t happen to the required level in Edinburgh.

“The bench is really important,” said Dillane. “Against Scotland, we let ourselves down coming off the bench. We didn’t bring the energy we needed to lift the players who had started.

“You need to boost the lads who are on the pitch, you finish off the game really and so the last 20, 30 minutes you have to try and make a difference and improve your performance.”

Dillane hopes to retain a place in the squad for the clash with France. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ireland reconvene tomorrow for a three-day camp in Monaghan, with an open session at Monaghan RFC on Friday, and they find themselves in a much better position than after that disappointing defeat to the Scots.

A bonus-point win in Rome has lifted Ireland to second in the Six Nations table before they welcome France to Dublin on 25 February.


“We’re in a better place than last week, but you can’t take a step back at all,” said Dillane.

“You’ve to build week-to-week and our next game is certainly going to be a really tough one, so we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and recover really well, do our basics right, and come out ready to take on the French.”

Dillane’s most recent experience of facing French opposition was the visit of Toulouse to the Sportsground back in October, with his ankle injury meaning he missed the dramatic defeat at Stade Ernest Wallon last month.

“Toulouse was our French team this year and they were big, physical and they’d a lot of heads-up play,” says Dillane.

“It’s very tough to defend, but it makes for exciting rugby and hopefully that’s what happens in two weeks’ time.”

There remains uncertainty over Henderson’s hamstring strain, but Dillane’s upturn in form off the bench against Italy will have him right in the selection mix as Schmidt plans for the visit of les Bleus.

Source: The42 Rugby Show/SoundCloud

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