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Stuart McCloskey: It takes you a while to get over your own ego

It's not easy breaking into the Ireland team and more so when the incumbent is one of the world’s best players.

Stuart McCloskey, by his own admission, can only play at first centre and usually standing in his way is Bundee Aki, a World Rugby player of the year nominee.

The Kiwi native was Ireland’s best player at the World Cup and recognised by his peers with the players’ player of the year award last month.

Ruled out of Ireland's win over Italy with what Andy Farrell called a "rumbling knee" injury, Aki’s absence, and that of regular outside centre Garry Ringrose, opened the door for the Ulster back to impress.

The 31-year-old rekindled his partnership with Robbie Henshaw. The duo started against Samoa in a World Cup warm-up last summer with mixed results as Ireland scrapped over the line in Bayonne.

McCloskey revealed that Farrell had called him aside last week for a chat in an effort to "get me fired up".

Whatever the boss said worked.

Winning his 16th cap, McCloskey played the full match, making 18 carries, got three offloads away, and had two try assists.

"I don't think that [Samoa] game was probably a fair reflection, it's the one before we go to the World Cup and it was an absolute monsoon there," he told reporters after Ireland’s 36-0 win over the Azzurri.

"[Andy] mentioned it to me during the week, as kind of like a challenge to us [Robbie and I] I think.

"We took that on board and I think we worked really hard together this week to try to get a bit of synergy, I suppose, between us and get on the same page.

"I think that extra bit of work helped us in the end and I think testament to Andy for probably bringing it up to make sure that we got over our stuff than probably we were going to.

"I think he knows me well enough by