As the World Cup approaches, Ireland’s talented center, Stuart McCloskey, is emphasizing the significance of strong team performances during the warm-up matches. The seasoned player, who secured his 13th cap and scored a crucial first-half try in Ireland’s 33-17 victory over Italy, shares Head Coach Andy Farrell’s philosophy of teamwork being the cornerstone of success.
“I’m not really thinking about going out there and having a good performance for myself,” McCloskey candidly admits in an interview with BBC Sport. “I think Faz [Farrell] preaches that, to work as a team. You could be not involved, like when you watch from the TV or you could have a lot of small things that have led to tries, and I think that’s what Faz appreciates about the game. So maybe if guys are not involved as much, they’re doing a lot of work off the ball.”
McCloskey’s dedication to the team’s collective efforts comes as no surprise, given his history of solid performances. Earlier this year, he started two of Ireland’s Six Nations fixtures, replacing the injured Garry Ringrose. His impact on the field, coupled with club-mates Tom Stewart and Iain Henderson’s standout displays, adds to the anticipation surrounding Farrell’s selection for the World Cup squad.
Regarding Stewart’s debut from the bench and Henderson’s captaincy during the match against Italy, McCloskey praises their contributions. “I thought Hendy [Iain Henderson] was brilliant, as he always is,” he states. “Tom [Stewart] came off the bench and showed what he can do at this level even with what, 30 odd minutes. He’s been class for Ulster ever since he started, and I know he’ll have a great international career, and this is just the start of it.”
The encounter with Italy marked the beginning of Ireland’s three World Cup warm-up games, with upcoming matches against England and Samoa. McCloskey, who is now enjoying regular playing time and played a vital role in Ulster’s United Rugby Championship campaign, has a genuine chance of making his World Cup debut this September. However, he remains grounded and doesn’t allow himself to get carried away with dreams of the prestigious appearance.
“Not really,” McCloskey modestly responds when asked if he’s allowing himself to envision a World Cup appearance. “I’ve just been trying to work hard in training,” he continues. “I tried to enjoy it after the Six Nations; I didn’t think that would ever happen really. It’s nice to be back in, but again, I’ve just sort of been enjoying being part of the team.”
Apart from his rugby skills, McCloskey is genuinely relishing the camaraderie within the team. “This team’s been great fun to be a part of,” he enthuses. “I know we’re winning, and most teams that win, it’s fun to be part of, but it genuinely is good to spend days with these guys and with the coaching team.”
As the World Cup draws near, Ireland’s focus on teamwork and unity bodes well for their chances in the tournament. With Stuart McCloskey’s selflessness and dedication to the team’s success, he sets a compelling example for his fellow teammates.