Uncapped Tom O’Toole insists he’ll be ready to step up if called upon by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell in the Guinness Six Nations.
The 22-year-old is one of just two uncapped players in Ireland’s squad, alongside scrum-half Craig Casey, and starts the Championship as third-choice tighthead prop behind Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter.
However, Furlong has just recovered from a year on the sidelines and it is uncertain how much Test rugby he will be able to play, so O’Toole could be in line for his international debut.
Former Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman has talked up O’Toole has one for the future but said his lack of experience means Ireland are operating with “four and a half props.”
But the Ulster player insists Ireland fans have nothing to fear.
“Look, I think Andy’s a very intelligent coach so I don’t think he would bring me in, especially when there’s only five props, if he didn’t believe in me,” O’Toole said.
“And his belief and the coaches’ belief gives me an extreme amount of belief in myself, and confidence.
“It’s something that obviously I haven’t played, international rugby, I haven’t been capped before. So it’s one of those areas where it’s a bit unknown.
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“But compared to being in the camp last year, the transition and the growth I’ve had within the year, and the people around me – the leaders that I have such as Cian Healy and hopefully Tadhg (Furlong) now when he returns – if I do get the opportunity I think I’ll be ready to perform.
“Ultimately that’s up to the coaches and I’m here just to be a sponge, learn as much as I can as possible by getting the opportunity to go hard, really just go for it.
“But I’m patient. I’m really just excited to be in this environment, working with the team and the quality of players we have around us, and to just do my absolute best.”