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Just how much have the jerseys changed from the time you started playing to the new Ireland Canterbury jersey you have on now?
TB Well I started playing back in the day when jerseys weren’t quite so fitted. I think the way the professional game has gone, the way rugby has gone, little extras make the difference. I think the tightness of the jerseys can make a huge difference whenever you’re trying to get away from a tackle so anything extra we can get we make the most out of and these new Ireland Canterbury jerseys provide that. AT Well when I started making my first appearances for Ireland Canterbury were the sponsors so it’s kind of nostalgic to get back into a Canterbury jersey. Everyone seems to be really keen and liking what we’re seeing, from casual gear like tracksuit bottoms, gym gear and then obviously the match stuff looks great. It’s a wee bit vintage looking which contributes to nostalgia when I think back to my first cap so I’m delighted. CM The main difference is the Canterbury kit now is a lot more fitted depending what position you’re playing. For forwards it benefits in the scrum and for backs, particularly wingers, it’s quite tight around the waist so when someone goes to make a last stich tackle there is a lot less jersey to grab. In schools and my younger days I can remember you could literally make a tent out of the jersey. I have a schools jersey framed at home and it’s bigger than a window. But these new Canterbury Ireland jerseys are a lot tighter, better fitted and make it easier to evade people.
So how important is it to have a nicely fitted jersey and does it add much to your game?
AT It’s certainly important that you feel comfortable in what you’re playing in, it’s one less thing to distract you and one less thing to be an excuse. So you’re out there feeling good and you can do your job.
Just how important is it for a player to feel comfortable in the gear he’s playing in?
TB Very important, big time. Going out onto the pitch you want to be feeling as comfortable as you can. You’ve a lot of pressure on you going out in front of a full stadium full of Irish fans who are expecting big things, the last thing you want to be doing is feeling uncomfortable or uneasy in what you’re wearing but this Canterbury gear feels great and I’m sure the boys will have no problem with it.
Do you like the look of the new Ireland Canterbury jersey?
CM I love it ye, we had Canterbury with underage Ireland teams with 19s and 20s, so I’ve had great experiences with them in the past. Looking at the new kit now Canterbury have taken it to a whole new level. Even just the casual wear is a lot slicker and a lot more fitted which is what we like.
Ireland had a phenomenal six nations last year winning the tournament, do you treat a new year any differently after success like that?
TB I think the boys obviously know the success that we had last year but that doesn’t linger too long in memory. Players want to push on harder, it’s very important when you win something like that to not rest on your laurels and to keep pushing forward. In the training we’ve had so far as a team everyone is at another level and pushing forward aiming to do it again. CM Well a lot of changes happen every year regardless of what happened in the season before. I mean last year was a great success and we won a trophy at the end of it but looking back on our games there were areas we weren’t happy with and we’ve highlighted areas we can work on. Anyone can win one championship, results can go your way etc. but to try to win another one, two in two years, this is going to be a huge task for us and that’s what we’re aiming towards. There’s a huge hunger in the squad, players who missed out on the six nations run last year who would have had a good shout for a spot last year are pushing for places again and are hungry for success. More players are being added to the squads so competition for places has only intensified.
Any particular fixture you’re looking forward to this season?
We have England and France at home this year so I think the English match is always the one that we and the country are looking forward to. I also like playing in Millennium Stadium, I think it’s a fantastic stadium. So either England at home or Wales away, they’re two big matches I’ll be hoping to be involved in.
Each international game you play is an unbelievable experience; every atmosphere you play in at international level is pretty amazing. I suppose England would be there in my mind and we have them at home this year. To narrowly lose to them last year was quite disappointing so they’re going to be a lot stronger again this year so that game will be a marker to see where we are as a team.