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Foley graduates to national honours

There is something beautifully blunt about Ireland's latest lock Dave Foley.

At last, the time has come to write his name alongside the men who have made him and almost broke him at Munster.

There is no better place for a second row to learn the game and no worse place to be when you want game time.

"It's been a blessing and a curse at the same time," he said frankly.

It is just the type of bone-bruising honesty you would expect from a Munster man, who has had to wait for his turn in behind the old warhorses.

"Because I've had to wait until I'm the age of 25 or 26 to get an opportunity.

"But, I think now I'm incredibly well prepared because I've had to wait, first and foremost.

"I've probably had to learn from some of the best locks in the world.

"There was Paul (O'Connell) and Donncha (O'Callaghan). Donnacha Ryan is obviously there now still and Mick O'Driscoll before him.

"They're all internationals. They've got a rake of caps put together."

Clearly, Foley had to move past big names to make his way at Munster. But, once that was done, the step up to Ireland was a natural one.

There were harsh lessons along the way. The first eye-opener came on his debut in half-an-hour off the bench against Connacht at The Sportsground back in April 2010.

"I was blown out of the water, I just wasn't ready for the physicality of it at all. Now that's a long time ago," he said.

"Two years ago, I can't recall what game it was, I knew mentally and physically I was prepared for this.

"And then last week when I got the chance to play European Cup, before I went out on the pitch, once I had known that week, there was no doubt that I was fully prepared for it and I could give it my all."

The curse of waiting longer than he felt was necessary, just like Donnacha Ryan before him, means he is eager to impress national coach Joe Schmidt.

"Now I'm a different animal and probably a different person compared to that young kid who made his debut for Munster," he offered.

There is a cold-eyed professionalism to his demeanour that makes you believe him.