Nathan White makes Test debut for Ireland and dreams of the World Cup

Connacht’s tight-head prop became Ireland’s third oldest debutant in Saturday’s 28-22 victory over Scotland in Dublin

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The Independent Online

Nathan White feared he would never realise his dream of playing Test match rugby during two morale-sapping, injury-ridden spells.

Connacht’s tight-head prop became Ireland’s third oldest debutant in Saturday’s 28-22 victory over Scotland in Dublin, then conceded he had fretted that his Test chance had passed him by.

New Zealand-born White was all set for his Test debut in Ireland’s autumn series in November, only to suffer an arm injury in training that then required surgery. Head coach Joe Schmidt kept faith with the 33-year-old, however, and his impressive cameo off the bench on Saturday has boosted his chances of squeezing into Ireland’s World Cup squad.

“When I injured my arm back in November that was very disappointing, but then to get fit and injure my back, there were definitely a few demons,” White said. “Connacht offered me a new contract, though, so that really made me determined to get myself right and do right by them.

“And this opportunity came along, and that’s just great. I don’t know how many coaches would show the kind of faith that Joe has shown in me. He’s backed me and given me a crack, and it’s just fantastic to have had that chance.

He added: “There were dark days in rehab but the carrot was always to be in the position to play in a game like this, so it’s great to have done it.”

Leinster stalwart Mike Ross remains the only player to have featured in every Test in the Joe Schmidt era, and has the starting tight-head spot nailed down for next month’s World Cup.

Marty Moore will provide the immediate back-up if he recovers from shoulder trouble in time as expected, leaving White battling with Michael Bent for the last prop berth in Ireland’s 31-man World Cup line-up.

Bent’s ability to prop on both sides of the scrum offers the kind of versatility Schmidt has already revealed he craves, but White’s unfussy solidity may yet let him trump his main rival.

White himself was simply happy to have made his Test debut. “I felt like a kid again, especially when you’ve got Paul O’Connell out there, a guy I’ve watched for a fair while,” he said. “So I just wanted to cherish the moment.”