Saturday 16 December 2017

Strauss aims to get back in green

Hooker hopes to follow in the path of Fitzgerald

You are never too far away from an international recall when you are on the frontline for Leinster.

Just look at the front row, for example, where tight-head props Mike Ross and Martin Moore are now ranked one and two for Ireland while Tadhg Furlong was the third tight-head out in Carton House leading into the last two rounds of the Six Nations.

Across the other side, Cian Healy and Jack McGrath must now be deemed neck-and-neck for the number one jersey with the under-rated Michael Bent also named in the extended Ireland squad in recent weeks.

Then, there is the man in the middle. Hooker Sean Cronin's special attributes make him the perfect foil to Rory Best for Ireland as an explosive impact option.

At Leinster, it wasn't long ago Richardt Strauss was considered the man in possession of the number two shirt for his effective brand of breakdown work, a leftover skill from his early days as an openside flanker, and his dedication to the basics of the position.

There was the ankle ligament that ruined his 2013 Six Nations, the heart condition in October of 2013 that should have meant the end of that season and the surgery to a ripped hamstring that did end it last May.

It had the knock-on effect of pushing out his return to action this season to October when he looked to recapture his form and his international status.

As recently as November, Strauss played out 22 minutes as the replacement for Cronin against South Africa for his fifth Ireland cap, the sixth coming against Georgia one week later.

Since then, he has been stumped by lingering hamstring trouble and a concussive episode in mid-February

"Yeah, I was obviously in the environment of it and playing there but it is hard for me to celebrate like the lads because I didn't have any kind of impact or contribution, so it is tough," he said.

"It's good to see their success. You are delighted for them and wish you were there but then that's life," he said.

"You have to just put your head down, work and get on with it and, hopefully, we can get a bit of success here now at Leinster at the end of the season."

The sight of Luke Fitzgerald fizzing along the left wing at Murrayfield must have been a source of comfort for Strauss, showing how the most misfortunate can find a way back.

"For everybody, it is reassuring to see that if you work hard and get into decent form, you will get your opportunities. It is up to us.

"I think we all know Joe is pretty fair and constant with his selections and the way he thinks. It is up to the lads who weren't there or didn't get any time to put our hands up and force his hand a bit."

It all begins with a potentially explosive tussle for fifth-placed Leinster with the PRO12 leaders Glasgow at The RDS on Friday night.

In a world of uncertainty, you can bet your bottom dollar Gregor Townsend's Warriors won't go down as easily as Scotland did to Ireland in the Six Nations.

This is particularly important in light of Leinster's indifferent form while the Ireland internationals were on duty for eight weeks.

"We let ourselves down in the Six Nations bloc where we had done pretty well in the past, having got a lot of points out of that window," noted Strauss.

"We are out of the top four and that just means the last five games of the season are going to be really important for us.

"We have to step up now which is probably one of the toughest games we will have all year against Glasgow.

"It's going to be a tough one. Everyone is going to be excited about it. It gives you the opportunity to put your hand up for the week after."

Oh yes, there have been 37,000 tickets sold for The Champions Cup quarter-final. Strauss means to be there.

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