Opportunity knocks for Eric
Miller at Lansdowne this afternoon, in fact it has been beating
a tattoo on his door ever since he got his first cap almost three
But the blonde bombshell has
never quite managed to drag it in and make it his own. But this
afternoon could be different for the brilliant young flanker
who takes over from Andy Ward against the South Africans, a glorious
chance to nail down that blind side spot for the season.
At only 25, Eric Roger Patrick
Miller has packed an awful lot into a relatively brief but brilliant
career,twenty International caps, not counting those at schoolboy,
Colleges, University and A level and a stunning tour of South
Africa with the Lions in 1997. But his C.V. is speckled with
that ominious word "injury" and far too many of his
caps have been won coming off the subs bench and that includes
five of the last six.
But Eric insists: "I'm
older, I'm fitter ,I think I'm wiser and I'm sure I'm ready.
Perhaps I played too much rugby in the past, especially when
I was with Leicester but coming home was good for me and my game,
I'm convinced of that."
Miller's is the perfect rugby
pedigree, educated at Wesley College, Sheffield Hallam and Loughborough
Universities, he came straight through the ranks to win his first
cap against Italy in January 1997. And no doubt his handling
skills were helped by a spell with his local gaelic football
club Ballyboden St. Endas where he won a Dublin a Dublin under
21 Championship with Dublin regular Brian Stynes.
And Ireland team boss Warren
Gatland has made it clear that two of the reasons for choosing
Miller in front of Ward were his skill at the back of the line
out and the fact that he has played all his rugby this season
at blind side. "
Eric has come into a nice bit
of form for Leinster , has trained particularly well and may
be just the man to do the job for us against the South Africans,"
said Gatland. And with the prospect of playing in all five of
Ireland's Six Championship games, the Terenure man could hardly
have a better motivation for what should be a cruncher this afternoon.
Miller came home from the South
African tour with rave reviews thre
e years ago but ironically
feels that following that trip with a hectic season for Leicester,
may have been a bad move. "Perhaps I played too many games
for Leicester, about 40, and that might not have been a good
thing"he said "but I think I have got things on an
even keel since I came home." C
ontractual difficulties meant
that Miller could not come back to Ireland until October and
because Ulster were willing to handle that problem and give him
a contract, he joined Harry Williams. "I was pretty well
guaranteed my football and Harry was good for me and my game,"
Miller explained, "so at the time , it was a good move for
And a transfer to Leinster
has also fitted perfectly into the Dubliner's scheme of things.
"Mike Ruddock did not guarantee me a starting place but
I was happy enough with that and I think playing with both Provinces
has added considerably to my game, but of course only time will
tell," he added.
But there has always been a
nagging doubt about Miller's ability to finish a game, his pen
picture in Ireland programmes are liberally sprinkled with phrases
which begin "unfortunately injury".
However Miller reckons he's
fitter than ever and he has certainly shown up well in the Leinster
colours. But he's well aware that Gatland works on a squad system
and will be ruthless in his search for a winning side.
Ireland finished last season
on a glorious winning note against the French in Stade de France
and they ripped in eleven tries against the Japanese. This afternoon
they produce a team in its prime and I include old man Peter
Clohesssy - the senior player at 34 - in that.
It's bristling with pace, witness
Hickie's magnificent middle try and by bringing back Dempsey
and Miller, Gatland has added two more footballers to a side
which should not fail for lack of experience and confidence.
The South Africans will be
fierce , formidable and fast but then, so were the French last
Tom Keogh 2000