DUBLIN, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Craig Gilroy is not yet a first team pick at Ulster but the young winger gave Ireland a glimpse of an exciting future on Saturday.
Without a win in five games, the Irish had to beat Argentina to ensure they are seeded when the 2015 World Cup draw is made on Dec. 3 and so avoid a potentially tough group with champions New Zealand and hosts England.
Debutant Gilroy, picked ahead of provincial rival Andrew Trimble after scoring a hat-trick in a non-cap win over Fiji last week, set the tone with an expertly finished opening try as Ireland romped to a seven-try, 46-24 victory.
“I didn’t want to make people think it was just a fluke against Fiji and I really wanted to do the same today and I‘m glad how things went,” the 21-year-old flyer told reporters.
For an Irish team who for years have had to turn centres like Trimble or Shane Horgan into wide men, Gilroy’s natural wing play, epitomised by an afternoon spent evading tackles left, right and centre, is something of a rarity.
His try, jinking past one tackler before slipping between another two in a matter of metres, was one only a thoroughbred winger could score. It reminded more than one or two around the Aviva Stadium of a young Shane Williams.
Irish centre Gordon D‘Arcy, who made his international bow on the wing 13 years ago, marvelled at Gilroy’s exploits.
“He’s so hard to tackle, can move off both feet, he has an ability to spin and keep going when he gets hit, his defence is rock solid... I thought he had an exceptional game for a first cap,” Ireland’s most experienced starter said on Saturday.
“Talking beforehand, I told him you’re here because you do what you do really, really well and just get out there and do that today, and he did it unbelievably well.”
Gilroy, who established himself during Ulster’s run to the Heineken Cup final last year and scored a memorable solo try in the quarter-final win over provincial rivals Munster, also exemplifies the growing depth in Irish rugby.
He may have fallen down the pecking order at Ulster since Tommy Bowe’s return home and made only replacement appearances so far in the Heineken Cup, but like fullback Simon Zebo and forwards Chris Henry and Mike McCarthy, Gilroy took his chance during the November internationals.
However, before he can begin to think about the national side’s next match against Wales in the Six Nations in February, Gilroy says he must first worry about matters closer to home.
“This is really just the starting point, I’ve got to work extra hard and keep my feet on the ground and hopefully I can hold onto it (the Irish jersey),” he said.
“I have to get my Ulster place back first and then I’ll worry about that.” (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Matt Barker)