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Tuesday 26 March 2019

Dillane coming from nowhere to be a big hit in Japan

IN FORM: Ultan Dillane. Pic: Sportsfile
IN FORM: Ultan Dillane. Pic: Sportsfile

This game can change so quickly. Just ask Quinn Roux.

The second row wasn't even listed in Ireland's extended squad for the Six Nations and ended up starting and calling the lineout against Scotland and Italy.

The other Connacht lock, Ultan Dillane, has also been able to take advantage of injuries to Devin Toner, Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson to re-stake his international claim.

"It's kind of how rugby works, some players get their chances through injury and, luckily, I was able to do well in the first couple of appearances.

"I've been fortunate in some ways, but it's been a great experience," said Dillane.

STAR TURN: James Ryan. Pic: Sportsfile
STAR TURN: James Ryan. Pic: Sportsfile

The fortune that has fallen the Kerryman's way this year was not on his side last season.

"I think my head was elsewhere in terms of what to focus on," he said.

"As it happened, I just couldn't play. I've never looked back on last season and thought, 'I should have done this and that'."

The issues of non-selection and non-performance are nothing but a bad and fading memory these days.

"It's not a good sign to be bogged down over things like that," issued Dillane.

"You need to be able to move on quickly.

"Selections happen all the time and you have to be able to be moment-focused."

With a new season came new hope of getting back to delivering on the potential of a superior athlete.

Happy

"I'm happy to be at this stage of the season, to feel fit and strong, and hopefully take it into returning to my province," he offered.

"I'm definitely in a better position than I was last season."

The 25-year-old is in rhythm and in line to add to his 14 caps in Cardiff on Saturday. He will have to take his limited-minutes chance with even greater impact, given the probability of James Ryan and Iain Henderson starting against Wales.

There was no hiding his admiration for the way Ryan has graduated to the top of the international class.

"He just has a feel for the game and he's so young as well," stated Dillane.

"He's got the perfect height for it, the perfect attributes. He's an incredible athlete.

"Most of you would have seen him when he captained the Under 20s and he had some pretty impressive performances then.

"That was enough of a sign for us to go, 'he'll definitely be here soon.'

"There's no surprise with him that he's been playing outstanding in this tournament and I'm sure he'll do so again this weekend."

The trajectory of Dillane's career has been undulating, at best.

The goal has to be to make the Ireland squad for the World Cup.

"I wouldn't project myself that far at all," he said.

"I'm just hoping about this week, that'd be great."

Experience has taught the Tralee man not to look beyond what is straight ahead of him on Saturday.

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