Feb 2 2010
Kevin McLaughlin will complete a spectacular change in fortunes when he makes his Ireland debut on Saturday - just a year after considering quitting rugby.
The Leinster blindside flanker will start against Italy at Croke Park after Stephen Ferris failed to recover from the knee problem that also threatens his availability to face France a week later.
"Last season was tough for me. I had to assess what was happening. I wasn't helped by the constant injuries," said McLaughlin.
"I had a couple of years where I struggled to make a breakthrough but that's just allowed me to appreciate this season all the more.
"I've come through it and am delighted to be seeing some reward. Last season I was looking at careers other than rugby.
Ravaged by injury and a succession of operations - one knee and two shoulder - McLaughlin's outlook on rugby reached its lowest ebb last season when he received a warning from Leinster coach Michael Cheika that he would be given one final chance to prove his fitness or face losing his contract.
The immovable presence of Ricky Elsom in his position left him on the outside as his province, inspired by their all-action Australian flanker, went to on lift the Heineken Cup.
But with Elsom having departed Down Under and his own body finally remaining undamaged for a run of matches, McLaughlin has seized the chance to make an unlikely ascent into the Test arena.
"The coaching staff at Leinster have been good to me and kept faith. I did okay in September but they realised I could get better so kept playing me week in, week out.
"Luckily I repaid them by improving. Now I have my chance in the Irish set-up. It's time to repay some of the faith shown in me."