Stringer relishing starting role
March 12, 2009
Stringer has been capped 87 times since making his debut in 2000 © Getty Images
Ireland scrum-half Peter Stringer has revealed he went back to the drawing board in a brutal period of self-assessment that has revived his Ireland career.
The veteran Munster scrum-half admits his "whole world was rocked" when he was dropped during the 2007 World Cup, an errant pass against Georgia earning an ear-bashing from captain Brian O'Driscoll and the axe from then coach Eddie O'Sullivan.
Eoin Reddan, Isaac Boss and, most recently, Tomas O'Leary leapt above him in the pecking order, leaving Ireland's fifth most capped player to contemplate a bleak future. But, refusing to accept the demise of his Test career, Stringer sought help to analyse his shortcomings and began to address them.
His efforts have resulted in a recall for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash with Scotland at Murrayfield - the setting for his debut nine years and 97 caps ago.
"I suppose it's fair to say my whole world was rocked when I was dropped. The fear of not being involved in this team is devastating," he said. "At the start it was very difficult because I found myself in a position I hadn't been used to. I was on the outside looking in and that hurt.
"But you go back to what you know best and I went back to what I've done since I was a kid. I refocused and regrouped and just continued to work hard. I've kept my head down and haven't said much.
"I made a conscious effort to approach all coaches that I was involved with and asked for their analysis. I asked them to look at me as if they were analysing me as a player on an opposition team, to really get down to the basics and get to the root of everything. I decided to work hard at it, keep my head down and be focused."
As Ireland's first-choice scrum-half for the best part of seven years, Stringer inevitably grew a little too cosy in the number nine jersey. "I've thought about this a lot. When I went back to the root of everything after the World Cup, I realised there were times when I was a little too comfortable," he said.
"It's human nature when you've been playing that long. I've always tried to be as professional as I can in my approach to everything and certainly I'll hold my hand up at certain times. It's quite difficult to be 100% professional for that length of time but I've tried to stick at the approach."
Stringer's lively substitute appearance in the 14-13 victory over England, when his presence increased Ireland's tempo, greased the wheels of his return. Whether he is preferred ahead of O'Leary for the likely title decider against Wales a week later remains to be seen, but the 31-year-old will be leaving nothing in the locker room.
"You hear retired players say to make the most of it but until you get to that position yourself you're not going to take much notice of something like that," he said. "It does mean a lot and you start to realise it's not going to be there forever, so you must cherish it."