Being patient and ready stands Kieran Marmion in good stead
Connacht back likely to be given run out against Fiji and gain his 18th cap for Ireland
Ireland back Kieran Marmion during Ireland’s victory over South Africa last weekend. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
It has been an aspect of all the players in Joe Schmidt’s rugby life that they rarely question their ability when demands are put on them for an international performance.
Schmidt’s deliberation in teaching each person the responsibilities of the position is like wrapping them in a comfort blanket. Come examination time they are usually well prepared.
Kieran Marmion never doubts himself when he steps up for Conor Murray as he did when the Munster scrumhalf carried a shoulder nerve injury, sustained playing with the Lions during the summer, into this season.
Now with 17 Irish caps and three years in the system, Marmion can expect a run out against Fiji on Saturday as Schmidt introduces those players who did not figure prominently against South Africa.
“I think as a player you’ve got to back yourself,” says Marmion. “I think if you don’t back yourself then nobody probably will.
“Your performance, you get that from training, the confidence, and as soon as that happens you’ve got to get out on the pitch and make sure you earn it.”
Joey Carbery has spoken about the influence Johnny Sexton has had on him playing the outhalf position. Like Carbery, who Schmidt now wants shaped to play at 10 rather than at fullback, Marmion must show patience as a nine in the current Irish pecking order.
It is an unnatural position to be in but Marmion sees it as being on a learning curve behind one of the better scrumhalves in world rugby.
“Yeah definitely, I’ve learned a lot off Conor, and off Johnny as well at the same time,” says Marmion.
“They’re both pretty smart rugby players, so it’s actually just taking parts of their game and trying to become as smart as I can as well.
“They’ve got a lot of experiences that I can learn from, watching them, and add them to my own game.”
Another player, who was successful at sevens when he was younger, Marmion has never second guessed himself in opting for Ireland instead of Wales.
“No, I’ve never even thought about that,” he says. “I’ve enjoyed being over here, enjoyed the Connacht lads who are at the club and never really thought about a different path from that.”
The path he has been on has worked. Nippy and quick to breakdowns with a crisp pass, his tempo is one of the strengths he brings to the Connacht and Ireland play.
Different to Murray in that where Murray has physicality and is an excellent box kicker, Marmion holds threat with his speed around the park and his instinct to nick space when it shows.
“Obviously I’ve got a bit more time under my belt, I know the systems a bit better and know what’s expected a bit more. I guess that gives you confidence,” he says.
“We’re just doing our stuff in training and transferring it to the game. Lads have had starts before and it’s just about making sure we perform when we get the chance.
“As long as you perform, I guess you keep being involved. Those lads did that in the summer [v USA and Japan], then came back to the provinces and started very well, I guess as soon as they do that they’re going to be in the frame for game time.”
John Cooney, who moved from Connacht to Ulster, and Leinster’s Luke McGrath are obviously biting at Marmion’s heals. It’s the ideal competitive environment that Schmidt cultivates, although no comfort to the chasing players.
Schmidt knows the worth of McGrath and a summer tour with Ireland to USA and Japan under Cooney’s belt has also alerted the Irish coach. Fiji is an opportunity to put distance between Marmion and the other two players.
“It’s a different challenge this week,” he says. “They [Fiji] have a lot of individuals who are seriously talented.
“Looking through their profiles, and the athleticism and power, the off-loading that they bring, I think it will be tough to take them down. I guess that’s the challenge in itself, to make sure we’re on top of that and we’re ready.”
That has framed his international career to date, being ready.