Martin Moore unfazed by elite benchmarking process

The 22-year-old tighthead wants more of the same after Ireland debut against Scotland

Martin Moore (right) celebrates after Rob Kearney scored Ireland’s third try against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

Martin Moore (right) celebrates after Rob Kearney scored Ireland’s third try against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

 

Martin Moore is softly spoken, thoughtful and earnest in weighing questions before answering.

He’s also polite, as are the enquiries about winning his first cap for Ireland when introduced as a replacement for Mike Ross against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.

It’s a gentle environment, unlike the one from which the 22-year-old – he won’t be 23 until March – tighthead prop had come. Quite apart from the physical, there is the mental anxiety of not knowing the precise moment when the watching brief will be swapped for game time.

Moore was tantalised early. He explained: “Mike [Ross] went down in the first half and took a knee, so the adrenaline started getting going then. I was with the strength and conditioning guys at the time and was dying to get on the field.”

He’d have to wait.

Minutiae of the game
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt advocates that the replacements concentrate on the minutiae of the game, to figure out what they need to do to make a positive impact when introduced.

The Leixlip native admitted: “He [Schmidt] talks about us not being spectators but really looking on, so we can improve and show what we can do when we come on. We have the live feed of the game.”

When the team returns to the dressingroom at half-time, the coach and his assistants have footage of the first half, which has been spliced and diced to show where improvements need to be made. The replacements watch carefully too. Moore had to wait until the 63rd minute for his debut.

So how did he feel, standing on the sideline, as the seconds dragged? “It is the waiting more than anything that gets to players. Once you’re on it’s like any other game, more or less. But it is when you are looking around, waiting to come on, that things get at you a little bit.

“The big one is the first contact: you get a bang and you are in the game. It was good to get that first scrum, get a solid maul and go forward. We seemed to have the ball a lot when I was on, which always helps. It’s a good first day to enjoy.

“It is a plus coming on [when the team is winning]. You see the boys doing well and you want to keep that going. I think it would be more pressure on if things weren’t going so well. It was a good day to come on and the first few set pieces helped.”

Moore was forewarned, the words of his team-mates ringing in his ears, with regard to the jump in intensity. They didn’t sugar-coat the advice.

“All week the guys were saying to me ‘don’t get caught off-guard by it,’ or ‘don’t let it faze you, it is going to be harder than anything’ [you have experienced in the past].”


Biggest leap
The young tighthead contends though that the biggest leap is from Ulster Bank League rugby – he was a member of the Lansdowne team that won Division 1A last season – to the RaboDirect Pro12 standard.

“When you come up to Rabo you are playing in a professional environment and a lot more is expected of you than if you are playing with Leinster A or with your club side for a bit of game time.

“I think that would have been the biggest leap, trying to play 70-80 minutes at Rabo level. It wouldn’t be feasible to go playing for the A team week in week out, and to be thrown into starting a Heineken Cup game. It could be too much.”

It’s easy to forget that Moore’s progression to Test level has been little short of head- spinning. His days as an underage international, first as a schoolboy at Castleknock College, then playing for the national side at every age grade, on the way to his Wolfhounds debut just nine days earlier, would have armed him with most of the tools to cope.

So, too, has been involvement in all six of Leinster’s Heineken Cup pool matches this season: fresh challenges, a new benchmarking process and redefining goals.

“It has probably come sooner than expected. Coming into this season I was looking to break into the Leinster side and obviously I have been lucky enough to do that and get the games with them.

“Every time I step up a level I have to set new goals and lucky enough it has happened for me now.

“It is good I have had that kind of progression through the different levels and obviously Heineken Cup experience is huge coming into games like this – some of those games were high-paced.”

Moore missed out on Schmidt’s post-match analysis as he was required for a drug test, but he’ll quickly have been given the gist of it from his team-mates. Ireland must improve, as champions Wales arrive in town this Saturday.

“I think we know the game they play: we play them week in week out, especially this year with Ospreys in Heineken Cup.

“When they’re on their game they are a big physical side and we have to take that away from them. If we deal with them up front, then I think it will be a great game.”

Supportive
Ross was hugely supportive of his understudy during the week. Moore smiled: “I was in his ear all week. It was good to have that support.”

“Hopefully, if I am going to be involved in those (future Six Nations) games I hope to play and put pressure on Mike for that position, get as much game time as possible. We’ll have to see how we go now. That’s what every player wants – you want to playing those minutes. If it comes my way I will be more than happy to take it.”