Tuned-in Tuohy quickly finds tempo of the game

28-year-old had been badgering Joe Schmidt for opportunity to impress

Dan Tuohy tackles Ryan Wilson during yesterday’s Six Nations Championship match. Photograph: Inpho

Dan Tuohy tackles Ryan Wilson during yesterday’s Six Nations Championship match. Photograph: Inpho

Mon, Feb 3, 2014, 10:35

Jamie Heaslip of New Plymouth fame in 2010 is so far removed from the 2014 version. The loss of Paul O’Connell the player was covered pretty efficiently by Dan Tuohy and Devin Toner yesterday but the loss of O’Connell the leader revealed far more.

“Craig,” Heaslip beckoned the South African referee midway through the first half. “Keep an eye on seven [Kelly Brown]. He’s sealing off and we can’t get quick ball.” Joubert nodded yet instantly replied: “Jamie, there’s quite a lot of talk coming from other (Irish) boys. I’m not happy about that.”

Heaslip drifted out of ref-mic range to go about silencing his team-mates. That and Joubert telling Johnny Sexton to “stop yelling at me” moments later did the trick.

Ireland v Scotland - second half highlights

On another occasion Heaslip delivered a complaint quietly, politely and while retreating out of Joubert’s space.

That’s new.

“The benefit of this team, I’ve noticed, is that there are players everywhere,” said Tuohy. “Paulie, Drico, Sexto and Jamie. That’s four leaders off the top of my head. The guys follow Jamie because he leads by example.”

Surprise news
Early yesterday morning Tuohy was eating porridge, vaguely aware of O’Connell’s absence from the breakfast room when John Plumtree approached. “Dan, a word. Paulie is ill, chest infection, you are starting.” He smiled. “Good one, Plums.” He stopped giggling when the Kiwi glared at him. This is not a drill.

It helped he is 28-years-old and had been badgering Joe Schmidt for this very opportunity. “Look what I’ve done for Ulster in Europe. Look at my stats.” Last week Joe mentioned those very defensive statistics. “I was quite public telling everyone I’ve been pestering Joe for an opportunity.”

Mike McCarthy wounded, O’Connell struck down, his form of late opened the door. “Sometimes they come out of the blue. This was my opportunity. You got to get them where you can.”

Tuohy initially arrived as a Test lock in 2010, galloping over for a try on debut against New Zealand in that best forgotten 68-22 shellacking in New Plymouth after Heaslip was red carded for kneeing an illegally positioned Richie McCaw in the head. That miserable game.

The journey to Dublin has been circuitous. Brisbane, Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton. All defeats. In the summer he came off the bench in Houston, started in Toronto. “I had prepared well all week just in case someone got injured so I knew my stuff. That was in the bank. It was just a case of getting on with it.”

Just go out and be O’Connell’s equal. It might have been the quality offload for Chris Henry leading up to Rob Kearney’s try or nine shuddering tackles or, in all likelihood, a pair of lineout steals but his impression of a legend was applauded by the always moody Sunday gallery.

All told, Tuohy now has a bagful of memories from his first time wearing a green jersey in Dublin in the Six Nations. But these things don’t happen overnight (well, in this case they literally do). The scary, frenetic pace of the gathering of tribes initially cowed him. “It took me 15 minutes to get into the game. I was just behind the pace. It took me by surprise. It’s important to do something, whether it’s a big hit or a lineout steal. I got my hands on the ball a couple of times. Relaxed a little bit. Found the tempo of the game.”

Tuohy has trusted Ireland’s forward coach from the outset because of his faith in Johann Müller. That duo worked in tandem at the Natal Sharks and Muller’s stamp of approval was enough for Tuohy.

“Gert (Smal) was a cracking guy, very popular figure. John’s a little different, a little bit out there, Gert was more reserved but Plums is a cracking coach.”

After the conversation with Plumtree, he returned to his porridge. “Porridge and a fry up for me.” Such information would scare the living daylights out of a younger man. “I said to myself, ‘Look I’ve played big games in the Heineken Cup, played against the All Blacks. ’ve done this hundreds of time. Just play rugby, maybe not at this level. Just back yourself. That’s the best thing you can do. I’ve been working hard for this chance. Glad I got it.”

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