Court desperate to feature for Ireland

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The Independent Online

With Ireland facing three autumn international matches against Southern Hemisphere opposition this month, Ulster’s Tom Court will have his fingers crossed that he features in coach Declan Kidney’s plans.

Tom Court’s excellent form against Leinster and Munster may encourage Ireland coach Declan Kidney to take a fresh look at the Ulster favourite.

Two excellent matches against Leinster and Munster by the loose head who turns 29 on Friday cannot have been lost on Kidney, who witnessed his Ravenhill and Thomond Park performances against Mike Ross and rookie Stephen Archer respectively.

Court has hit peak form at just the right moment and in addition to the Ulster player’s impressive form, Marcus Horan’s recent health problems will not help the Munster man’s case.

Horgan, 32, was forced to retire from Munster’s October 17 Heineken Cup clash with Treviso suffering from dizziness. He duly missed out on the Magners League dates with Edinburgh and Ulster.

Uncapped Leinster Academy graduate Cian Healy, 22, is also in Kidney’s 39-strong squad from

which will be chosen the side to face Australia at Croke Park on Sunday, November 15.

He, too, is playing well and certainly will have backers in Dublin.

So, too, is Connacht’s South African-born Brett Wilkinson.

But while he is another contender for the number one jersey, like Healy he is uncapped.

Ultimately it may well depend on what Kidney wants from that fixture; does he view it as an occasion to experiment or will he see it as a significant first outing of 2009/10 for the defending Six Nations champions and an important step on the road towards the 2011 World Cup?

If experimentation is the name of the game, the more obvious opponents against whom to try that would be Fiji.

The fact that Court was a member of last season’s all-conquering Irish squad ought to be a considerable plus.

For if he was considered good enough at that stage, then given that he has been playing well in what is a very good Ulster front row, it is improbable that he can have dropped down the ratings.

Court offers current form, previous international experience — four full caps — and the fact that come the World Cup he will be in his early 30s, reckoned to be the age at which a prop is in his prime.

Healy, talented though he is, cannot tick the second and third of those boxes. And Wilkinson, who will be 26 at the end of this month, has no experience at this level either.

So there are a number of factors in Court’s favour, not least Ulster’s form and fitness since Brian McLaughlin took over.

To that add the prop’s physical attributes — 6’3” and 19st 2lbs compared to Wilkinson’s 6’0” and 18st 3lbs and Healy’s 6’0” and 17st 4lbs.

Again Court — taller and heavier than either of his rivals — comes out on top.

Previously one of the best shot-putters in Australia, Irish-qualified Court was a late convert to rugby, only taking up the game when he was a student at the University of Queensland. In the circumstances his development has been remarkable and his progress quite incredible. Clearly he learns quickly. A member of Super 14 Queensland Reds before joining Ulster in May 2006, originally as a tight head, everything points to him featuring in the coming three-match programme — Australia on November 15, Fiji on November 21 and South Africa on November 28.

A fortnight ago he told me: “I want to hold on to my Irish place. Last year’s Grand Slam was an incredible experience and I am delighted to have been part of that. It would be good to add to it and that is a goal.”

Sourced from: The Belfast Telegraph