Field a winner once he starts


LAST Saturday Maurice Field celebrated his 32nd birthday, He spent the better part of the day training with the Ireland side in preparation for the match against Wales this weekend. He was happy to do so, for two days earlier he got the birthday present he wanted most of all, a recall to the Ireland side,

In international terms, Field came to the scene late. He won his first cap two years ago in a memorable win over England at Twickenham and although unable to command a regular place in the side subsequently, he has, nonetheless managed to win 10 caps.

His record is played 10, won four, drew one and lost five. There is, however, an aspect of his record, of which he is very proud. He has started for Ireland in four matches and Ireland won three and drew one. He has not been on a losing Ireland side other than when he came on as a replacement. "I want to maintain that record on Saturday," said Field, whose return to the side coincides with that of his Malone club mate and friend, flanker Denis McBride. Field has been on winning sides against England (1994), Wales (as a replacement in 1995), Japan (World Cup) and Fiji last November. He was also on the team that drew with Scotland in 1994.

Field is a player of courage and determination and he needed those attributes for there was no quick route to international honours for a man who earns his living as firefighter in Belfast. Originally a member of NIFC, he was capped for Ulster at under 20 level in 1983 and the following season at under 23, But there followed a six year gap before he played again at representative level. That was when he lined out for Ulster against the Exiles, but it was not an Interprovincial Championship match.

He was invited to join the Ireland squad in 1991 prior to Ireland's tour to Namibia, but did not make the touring side. When he played for Ulster in 1992-93 against Australia it was the start of regular appearances for his province.

He made his first international appearance when he played for Ireland A against Wales A in Donnybrook in 1994 and, now 30 years of age, he felt that perhaps the ultimate honour might prove unattainable. But within a matter of weeks of that appearance he was chosen to play against England at Twickenham. That was memorable for him in every possible respect.

When he was chosen for that match he said: "I just cannot describe how delighted I am". Now on reflection, the memory remains golden, the high point of his career. He was part of the team that scored a great win and a fortnight later won his second cap when he played in the drawn match against Scotland.

He was a member of the Ireland party that toured Australia in the summer of 1994, but his Test appearance as he put it "amounted to a record appearance as a replacement. it lasted exactly 75 seconds. But it was another cap and I was delighted to get it. I also enjoyed the tour to Australia."

With Philip Danaher and Brendan Mullin holding down the centre berths in the Ireland side during last season's championship, his appearances were as a replacement. He came on against France, as a temporary replacement, against Wales in Cardiff and also in the match against Italy in Treviso.

"I might have a record for the number of times I have come on as a replacement. But all the appearances count."

"My main objective last season was to make the Word Cup squad and I was delighted when I was chosen," he said. He came on as a replacement in the match against New Zealand and played the full game against Japan, when again his selection coincided with an Ireland win.

He was chosen for the match against Fiji and once more figured on a winning side. But he was dropped for the match against the United States in Atlanta. "I was disappointed when I was left out of the team for that match, especially after we had played so well against Fiji. But obviously the selectors felt that Kurt McQuilkin better fitted their game plan.

"I feel I have played well this season and was very pleased with the performances by Ulster against Begles and more especially against New South Wales, and all the selectors were present at those matches. I thought we played in those matches as Ireland wanted to play."

But he had to bide his time before the call came again last Thursday morning. "The main thing now, is that we win on Saturday. We badly need a victory in the current circumstances and I think we are capable of getting it."

Maurice Field has served Ireland very well and has never played badly for his country. On Saturday he will play at outside centre with Jonathan Bell at inside centre. "I am quite happy with that decision, I am delighted to be in the side in any position. Selection was a great birthday present and now I hope I can maintain the record of never being on a losing Irish side in any international in which I have started."