Ireland: Gavin Coombes relishing ‘exciting’ chance to play the Maori All Blacks

Date published: June 28 2022 - Dylan Coetzee

Ireland number eight Gavin Coombes is bursting with excitement ahead of their fixture against the Maori All Blacks on Wednesday.

Coombes views the prospect of playing the Maori All Blacks as “very exciting” as he looks to kick on after an injury-hampered season in the United Rugby Championship.

Inspired by games of past

The loose forward recalls being in the stands when the Maori All Blacks played against Munster in Limerick, where the province claimed a 27-14 win.

“I was up in the stands, it was incredible,” Coombes told reporters. “That Munster performance that night was incredible. It was lashing down rain sideways and some of the tries Munster scored that night were incredible. They’re the kind of games you want to be involved in and it’s very exciting to get a chance to play against the Maoris.”

Coombes feels that visiting South Africa in the URC will benefit the players who have never toured with Ireland.

“I’ve been lucky in the way that the South African teams have come into the URC that I’ve had experience of touring with Munster. I’ve done that three or four times, been away with a group for two or three weeks, so I’ve an idea of what to expect,” he said.

“I really enjoy it, being around the lads and the craic, everyone bringing it in training and it’s so exciting to get the opportunity with these Maori games to show what you’re about.”

Coombes feels he has grown his game and rugby knowledge despite struggling with injury this season.

“There’s aspects I feel I’ve improved on, stuff I’ve worked on since last summer but it’s just been frustrating because it’s been stop-start,” he said.

“I was up (in Ireland camp) but didn’t get the chance in November then went down to South Africa and then got stuck over there and missed two European games. I got the chance to play over in Castres, got that try and went into the Six Nations with a lot of confidence.

“I played a few games with Munster during the Six Nations and then straight after the Six Nations picked up that ankle injury before two big European games again. It was frustrating.

“They are the games where you feel like you can test yourself and you where you’re at so it’s been a frustrating year for me but I definitely feel like in terms of game knowledge and things like that, you’re always learning and I feel like I’ve definitely improved on that.”

Putting his hand up

The Munster star sees an opportunity to put his hand up in the clash against the Maori All Blacks and push for Test selection.

“I think there’s an opportunity for anyone. One injury and if you play well in that Maori game and you’re going to get in, or you don’t know how the lads are going to perform on Saturday (in the first Test against the All Blacks),” Coombes said.

“You just have to look after yourself and put your best foot forward. That’s the attitude I’m taking towards it anyway. You never know what’s going to happen, what tomorrow’s going to bring, you just put your best foot forward today.

“Mentally I’m fresh. Missing a lot of games, it’s tough coming back into the intensity up in Ulster and big games like this that’s coming now but I feel like with the S&C staff I had back in Munster I’m in a good place. I’m incredibly excited. I’m like a boy again going down to minis and getting that opportunity to just play every week.”

READ MORE: Bundee Aki: Experienced centre to captain Ireland against Maori All Blacks