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Saturday 10 December 2016

Holland finally finds international home after toss of coin

Billy Holland
Billy Holland

It nearly all came down to the toss of a coin, according to Ireland new cap Billy Holland.

The Cork Constitution forward moved between the back and middle rows in a fine Munster career that was effectively parked in neutral for the last decade due to the presence of Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan, Mick O'Driscoll and Donnacha Ryan in the engine room.

It became a case of stick or twist.

"Yeah. A couple of years back I was thinking of going to a different club across the water and I was tossing a coin," he said.

"I tossed the coin 50 times and it ended up something like 26-24 against Munster.

"I was just like 'this is mad' and I just said 'I'm going to give it another two years.'

"It's something that would drive you a little bit mental when you are younger."

That must seem like another rugby lifetime for the man who will make his Ireland debut at the age of 31.

The most glamorous side of the game has been out of reach for Holland. Until now.

He has been given a leadership role as Ireland's lineout caller against Canada.

At last, he will rejoin those who moved ahead of him onto the international stage.

"You see guys, I played U-20s with Seánie O'Brien, Johnny Sexton, Rob Kearney - all these lads," he said.

"They're off winning Grand Slams and you're off in f***ing Rotherham or some dive like that playing 'A' rugby."

The move abroad was shelved forever once Holland came to terms with his place in the game.

"I love Munster. But, I love Irish rugby and everything it represents, getting to play in front of your family week-in, week-out," he said.

"You know if I went off to the UK I would have been on my own and that's something that means a lot to me."

The patience to persevere was rewarded as O'Driscoll, O'Callaghan and O'Connell exited Munster.

Holland won the right to wear red regularly and it led to his international birth.

No doubt, his family will be there to see a dream come true.

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