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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Tracy driven to hone his craft

Ex-prop mastering skills of hooker as he wants that derby feeling again

James Tracy believes in practising, practising and more practising. Pic: Sportsfile
James Tracy believes in practising, practising and more practising. Pic: Sportsfile

James Tracy was there when the Aviva stadium was officially opened for play on August 1 2010.

The combined Leinster/Ulster outfit blasted Munster/Connacht 68-0 in the hilariously named O2 'Challenge' with the winners laced with future stars of the game in Paddy Jackson, Iain Henderson, Luke Marshall, Marty Moore, Craig Gilroy and loose-head prop Tracy.

"It was a great experience. It was unbelievable. There was something like 35,000 there," recalled Tracy.

The trajectory of the now 25-year-old's career career 'flatlined' until he made the transition from prop to hooker.

The continued absence through injury of Richardt Strauss means Tracy and Bryan Byrne will contend to supplement Seán Cronin against Munster on Saturday afternoon.

The simple fact Tracy was put forth for media work on Monday makes him favourite to make the 23-man squad in what remains the inter-provincial fixture that most captures the imagination of this island.

"To be in a derby game with 40,000-plus would be unbelievable," he said.

"It is the old rivalry. It is the closest thing to an international you are going to get in the PRO12.

"Last year, I was involved in the Christmas game. It was electric. It was unbelievable to be part of it.

Selfish

"You get selfish. You want that feeling again. You get a taste for it."

The journey from prop to hooker has had its trials as the specialist role starts at the set-piece where throwing is key.

"It is you against yourself in that department," he said.

"I have a routine that I do every day. I throw 50 balls outside of pitch sessions.

"That is the target I have set for myself. I will reassess at the end of the season, maybe do more, maybe do less.

"I never go too far. I never throw myself into pain. There are never 50 lineouts in a game.

"It is about trying to find the balance between throwing yourself into too much fatigue where you could pick up a bad habit."

It doesn't end there. There are the on-pitch sessions, the live scrums, the video analysis and the extras outside the club.

"For practising my hooking, I do pilates two times a week, not that you need to put your leg around your head to hook the ball.

"I have found it helps for core stability."

"I have a structure for the core values. For instance, if you're a kicker and you can't kick your goals, it doesn't matter what else you can do.

"That is a given. You practice your core values all the time.

"The everyday routine has definitely helped me.

"You know then that when you go into a game situation, you have left no stone unturned."

Munster could well put that to the test.

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