Rhys Ruddock has his sights set on World Cup
Leinster flanker 'Emerging' in time for the World Cup
Rhys Ruddock will lead Emerging Ireland into the opening match of the Tblisi Cup against Emerging Italy tomorrow with much more than 'Georgia on his mind.'
You just have to cast your mind back to November when Ruddock kicked in the front door to Ireland's back row.
It all started with the unease of his roommate Chris Henry falling to a mystery illness, later leading to a heart operation, on the morning of the match against South Africa.
Joe Schmidt placed his faith in Ruddock and how the coach was repaid by the 24-year-old, who found room for his first international try in the first of two magnificent 80-minute performances, the second coming against Australia two tumultuous weeks later.
And then it all went horribly wrong. The breakout season was unceremoniously halted by a fractured forearm against Harlequins in the Champions Cup.
Complications set-in. Frustration too. Ruddock aimed to be back in six weeks. It took eleven. He played no part in the retention of the Six Nations.
The Champions Cup was still there for the taking. He did get through The Ospreys and The Scarlets in The PRO12. But, his arm wasn't right.
Another operation was needed and the season conceded.
The prospect of the Tblisi Cup does not exactly whet the appetite of most of those chosen.
It is a development tour with Schmidt's long-term planning activated to assess players of interest for the post-World Cup era.
Captain Ruddock is the exception to the rule.
He knows he has ground to make-up ahead of the first of four World Cup warm-up internationals beginning with Wales at the Millennium Stadium on August 8.
He has already been through his pre-season. Presumably, the plan is to find a semblance of match fitness in Georgia, ease back off the throttle for a while and then scale the summit to peak fitness for the Autumn.
Ruddock has the physical size and power at 111 kgs (17 1/2stones) to survive in the second row and to thrive in the back row where he operates best on the blindside.
Emerging Italy v Emerging Ireland, tomorrow (2pm Irish time)
Uruguay v Emerging Ireland, Wednesday June 17 (2pm Irish time)
Georgia v Emerging Ireland, Sunday June 21 (2pm Irish time)