LEINSTER HOOKER JAMES Tracy has sampled the top echelon of Irish rugby, and he wants back there.
The Kildare man won the most recent of his six caps in the November 2017 win over Argentina, but has fallen down the pecking order in Joe Schmidt’s eyes with Niall Scannell and Rob Herring leading the challenge behind Sean Cronin and Rory Best.
Tracy stands for the anthems with Bundee Aki, Adam Byrne and Chris Farrell. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
Cronin, of course, provides a hurdle for Tracy at provincial level too. Speaking in Leinster’s UCD base – sparsely populated on weeks like this – the hooker was determined to overtake the prolific try-scorer and so give himself another shot at the Ireland squad.
“It is a big disappointment but I know myself if you want to be picked for that you have to be better than everyone else round and I know myself I haven’t been,” says the 27-year-old with an upbeat tone that belies his searing self-appraisal.
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“The ball is in my court and I have to get everything right so that I am getting picked at Leinster first. If you are starting for Leinster it usually leaves you in a pretty good spot. So I need to get my ducks in-a-row here first and hopefully everything falls into place after that.”
His team-mate and positional rival Bryan Byrne was seated at the same table before Christmas and discussing his upturn in form. When Tracy mentions that great intangible metric, he outs himself as his harshest critic.
“I am definitely not where I want to be but I am building in the right direction,” he says ahead of Friday night’s Pro14 meeting with Scarlets, a game which will bring his 18th appearance of the season.
Impact: Tracy was among the replacements for all six of Leinster’s pool matches in Europe. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
“Form is a weird thing, you don’t have control necessarily, all you can do obviously is try your hardest and train you hardest and the rest can kinda falls into place, you know?”