Humpreys turns up the heat
February 2, 2000
David Humphreys is aiming to make the most of a reprieve and break his duck against England when Ireland tackle the Lloyds TSB Six Nations favourites at Twickenham on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Ulsterman was expected to make way for the promising Ronan O'Gara in the wake of Ireland's World Cup flop but an untimely injury to the Munster fly-half earned the former London Irish player another chance.
And, having spent the best part of three years trying to establish himself as first choice, Humphreys is naturally keen to hang onto the coveted number 10 jersey.
"Obviously I'm delighted to be playing, I want to play international rugby," he said.
"Ronan's misfortune with his injury is fortunate for me but you just take it as it comes and I'm looking forward to it.
"This is the first time I will have had an extended run I've been in the team for a year now and, playing at this level, it's a matter of experience.
"The guys around me now have played quite a bit too. We will get better."
The cynics might suggest things cannot get any worse following Ireland's dismal defeat at the hands of Argentina last October.
There has been much wringing of hands since that 28-24 defeat in Lens but 11 of the 15 players on duty that fateful day will have the chance to make amends on Saturday.
"It's pretty hard to explain how disappointed we were. We had set ourselves certain goals and didn't achieve them," said Humphreys.
"It was one of the biggest disappointments of all our careers but we've put it behind us now and we're looking forward.
"Regardless of the World Cup disappointment, when the Six Nations comes around, everybody wants to be part of it.
"I personally can't wait for it to start. Preparations are going well, we're all looking forward to it."
Humphreys, who skippered Ulster to the Heineken Cup last year, finally got the nod ahead of his long-time rival, Eric Elwood, for the number 10 jersey and he fell just one point short of breaking the all-time Irish record in the final Five Nations championship.
He also rattled up 41 points in the World Cup, despite missing the games against group whipping boys Romania and the United States, and, with 165 points, is closing in on Elwood's total of 293 for Ireland.
Fourth in Ireland's all-time list of points scorers, Humphreys has played in only half the Tests of record marksman Michael Kiernan and, at 28, he has the chance to break the all-time record, despite the shadows of Elwood on the bench and O'Gara in the wings.
Ireland, with an average of one win per Five Nations Championship, have been given little hope of making a winning start to the Six Nations and Humphreys, who has never been on winning side against England, is realistic about his team's prospects.
"Nobody wants to play England at Twickenham, certainly not first up, so it's going to be very difficult for us" he admitted. "I don't think anybody outside the squad expects very much.
"The level of expectation, especially after the World Cup, is low in Ireland and it is a pretty daunting prospect but, at the same time, we have nothing to lose.
"A win is a long way away, we're looking at a big performance. We've trained hard and we want to play a certain way and, if we can do that, hopefully the result will look after itself."