Ireland centre Stuart McCloskey admits he is eager to return from the wilderness and kick-start his fitful international career.
Ulster back McCloskey is in contention to win his first cap in more than two years during Sunday’s Autumn Nations Cup clash with Georgia.
The 28-year-old’s three Ireland appearances to date have been spread across almost as many years following a debut against England in the 2016 Six Nations.
McCloskey believes he is battling for a spot in his country’s most competitive position and is eager to make up for previous frustrations, having felt he tried to “fit in too much” when initially selected.
“I’ve been pretty impatient for the past five-odd years,” said McCloskey.
“Hopefully, if I do get an opportunity, I can take it and move forward and grasp it with both hands. I need to have a good game if I do play and put a bit of pressure on the guys there.
“It’s (been) tough. There have been times where I’ve felt I have been playing excellent, I’ve been there or thereabouts for the whole time.
“But there’s a lot of good competition there. There’s a lot of talent there – it (centre) is probably the most talented of any position in Ireland.
“You have to be at your best and I just want to get a decent opportunity at putting my foot forward and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. At least I can go off knowing I’ve given it my best shot, but I know I haven’t given it my best shot so far.
“Looking back on it, I just wish I’d put more of a mark on it in my first game, against England. Maybe I just tried to fit in too much.”
After his maiden outing in a 21-10 loss at Twickenham, McCloskey played in victories over Fiji in November 2017 and the United States 12 months later.
The Northern Irishman appears well placed to add to his sporadic appearances this weekend, with head coach Andy Farrell likely to name an experimental line-up against the country ranked 12th in the world.
“It seems like a long time ago now looking back on it but the England game – it’s nearly five years ago now – I remember playing it and thinking I played all right and I just didn’t get another go,” said McCloskey.
“And then the two (other) games I had, I played all right. I was playing Fiji and the USA and unless you’re tearing it up against them, you’re not getting another opportunity.
“I’d just like to play well and then hopefully get another game on the back of it and put my mark down.”
After comfortably beating Wales in the opening match of the tournament, Ireland were resoundingly defeated by England.
November 13: Ireland 32-9 Wales
November 21: England 18-7 Ireland
November 29: Ireland v Georgia
December 5: Ireland v TBC
McCloskey believes there is little between his country and the world’s best but feels they need greater consistency.
“Every game nearly I go in thinking Ireland are favourites. Or, if not favourites, very close. There are no real teams in the world now where going into them we wouldn’t be there or thereabouts,” he said.
“But it just seems to come in peaks and troughs at the minute, one week it’s very good, one week it’s not quite there.
“And it’s just trying to put that together and get a bit more cohesive.”