by JL Pagano
Answering 'Ireland's Call' as a fan three times in one Six Nations weekend is something I've been meaning to do for a long time, and thankfully the stars aligned perfectly for me to be able to watch the Men, Women and Under-20s all face their Italian counterparts in successive days.
First up were the Under-20s on Friday evening at Donnybrook. I know I'm giving away my age here but on the way to the ground I met someone with whom I went to school, only he wasn't going just because he's an Ireland rugby nut like myself - his son was actually starting!
This brought it home to me just what this young squad is all about for the fans. The way I see it, they can do no wrong on the night. Now by that I don't mean they won't make mistakes, nor do I mean they shouldn't have them pointed out when they do.
But having done all it takes to get to this point - the schools and club rugby matches at all levels, plus of course all the training sessions week in and week out - these are the lads who have shown enough promise and now must get used to a whole new dimension of the sport, namely the build-up to big international occasions.
Pulling on the green jersey, impatiently waiting to take the field before doing so in front of an excited flag-waving crowd, lining up for the anthems...I'm writing as if I've done it myself, but sadly it was only ever in my imagination!