Rugby Union

Ulster prop Tom O'Toole patiently aiming for Irish and Ulster starting jersey

Ulster's Tom O'Toole in action in the European Rugby Champions Cup match against Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop, London on Friday December 13 2019
John Flack

ULSTER prop Tom O'Toole has admitted he must remain patient in his ambition to become Ireland's top tighthead as he continues to bide his time both for his province and at international level.

The 22-year-old is still very young in propping terms but is already seen as one of the elite talents in the Irish system, however he is still waiting on that true breakthrough moment when he seizes a starting jersey for either team.

With Ulster, he has found himself largely playing second fiddle to Marty Moore and, even though he is ahead of his provincial team-mate in the international set-up, it has been much the same story with the national side.

Being behind British and Irish Lions pair Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter is nothing to be ashamed of, and O'Toole believes the experience he is gaining now will benefit him greatly down the line.

“Since I started early it seems like I have been in here for a few years now and I should be saying to myself I want to push that, but there are just some things you can't rush and there are some things that do take time," acknowledged the Drogheda-born prop.

“My dad always told me that rugby is a marathon, not a sprint, and just be patient and not put yourself under too much pressure. At stages I probably put myself under too much pressure and wasn't playing as well as good as I wanted to be playing.

“I think at the moment with being in the Ireland set up but not really getting to play, it's tough but I'm there, I'm in and around that environment and I'm not going to overlook that, it is massive for me and my growth.

“In a couple of years' time when I really want to start taking off, or whatever time that may be, I have got that experience and I can really push on a bit earlier than I expected to.”

Dan McFarland has made nine changes to the side that were beaten by Leicester Tigers in the Challenge Cup semi-finals last week for their must-win Rainbow Cup clash with Munster at Thomond Park tonight.

Iain Henderson, fresh off his call to represent the Lions on this year's tour to South Africa, is retained as Michael Lowry gets his fourth start of the season at fly-half.

Openside flanker Marcus Rea is included in a match day squad for the first time since November alongside promising young talent David McCann, who is at No.8, while Will Addison makes his first start for Ulster since January 2020 at outside centre.

“There is no doubt they will want to take us on around (the scrum) and they really pride themselves around that physicality side of the game, the mental and physical battles around the set piece," said O'Toole, who starts at tighthead tonight.

“It is going to be huge going into this week and they are at home, so they will be up for it.

''So it is massive for us to go down there and give it to them.”

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