No luck involved this time around as Herring motivated to go one step further

ROB HERRING COULD sympathise with Ultan Dillane and Rory Scannell more than most this week, having been in a relatively similar position four years ago when cut from Ireland’s World Cup training squad.

The Ulster hooker, who had just one cap to his name at that stage having made his international debut against Argentina in 2014, was released back to his province despite not being involved in the first warm-up outing against Wales.

Rob Herring at Carton House yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Rory Best, Sean Cronin and Richardt Strauss ahead of him in the pecking order, Herring was always an outside bet to go to the 2015 tournament, but this time around is much different.

Although he has won just six further caps in the four years since, the 29-year-old is in a fight with Munster’s Niall Scannell to get on the plane to Japan, again behind captain Best and Cronin. 

Herring is handed the first chance to stake his claim tomorrow afternoon against Italy, in what will be just his third start for Ireland and first since he got the nod for the opening summer Test against Australia 14 months ago.

“The last World Cup I just felt kind of lucky to be in the pre-season squad but this year I’m a lot more motivated to play a big part in this team and to help us achieve something we haven’t achieved before,” he says.

“It’s good to get the opportunity first up and get involved in the games and it’s something we’re really looking forward to.

Although it is the first of four warm-up games, Herring is one of a number of players entering make-or-break territory in terms of mounting a persuasive case for their inclusion. 

Scannell, who will be eager to showcase his wares off the bench at the Aviva Stadium, made three appearances during the Six Nations, whereas Herring did not feature in Schmidt’s plans at all.

It means the South African-born hooker knows he needs a big performance on Saturday afternoon. 

“There is a lot at stake,” he continues. “Particularly as a squad I think we’ve all worked really hard and we’re the guys who are the lucky ones, who are representing that kind of work we’ve had in pre-season.

“I know people say these are trial games but what we value as a squad is the work rate you provide for the team and trying to make things easier for other people and to make the team get better.

“So personally on that level, I just want to be able to do my job. My set-piece has to be strong and then just anything around the park that I can make things easier for the other players around me.

Herring will win his eighth cap this weekend. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“That’s valued highly as a team so I think a lot of the boys will be just looking to put in a good team performance and the individual things will come from that.”

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Herring will pack down in-between Jack McGrath and Andrew Porter, both of whom will be keen to put in big shifts that will help propel them towards Schmidt’s final panel for Japan.

The trio started together against Fiji in November 2017, but Herring has been in and out of the picture since, despite gaining more big-game European experience at Ulster in recent seasons. 

“It’s something we’re all pretty used to, over the last four years it’s pretty much been us four hookers being repped in and out in the various squads,” he admits.

“Look, it’s a very competitive position, I’m aware of that and the other hookers are as well. Ultimately, that’s what you want. We’re all driving each other, driving the standards and I think this eight-week block will see us improve because we’re all driving each other on.

“We know how competitive the position is.” 

After missing out last time around, Herring is motivated to push on and make Schmidt’s 31.

“My earliest World Cup memory was the 1995 one, and obviously it had a big impact in South Africa,” he adds. “The last World Cup, I didn’t manage to get on the plane so the way that ended, I want to try and go one step further this year.”

The42 Rugby Weekly is back as we get ready for next month’s World Cup. Murray, Gavan and Bernard Jackman get us started by looking ahead to this weekend’s opening warm-up game against Italy.

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