Ireland lock Joe McCarthy admitted he battled nerves and fears of being over-hyped ahead of his eye-catching Guinness Six Nations debut in Friday evening’s crushing demolition of France.
The towering 22-year-old was selected ahead of James Ryan and Iain Henderson in Marseille and justified the faith of Andy Farrell with a man-of-the-match display in a record-breaking 38-17 win.
His powerful performance alongside second-row partner Tadhg Beirne helped silence a stunned Stade Velodrome crowd en route to Ireland’s biggest victory away to the pre-tournament favourites.
“There was obviously a lot of distraction, the atmosphere is crazy, it’s hard to hear yourself think in these games,” said McCarthy, who won his sixth Test cap.
“I was quite nervous in the week because it was a big opportunity, playing my first Six Nations game.
“I just kept going back to the process and (had) loads of great second rows giving me help in the camp.
“The place was rocking. Again, you’re trying not to get over-hyped, because I’ve definitely had games before where you’re too fired up and you might start off a bit off.
“I was trying to chill as much as I could and keep the heart rate down.
“I kind of like playing aggressively and flying around the place. I just need to keep looking forward, there’s plenty more to do.”
McCarthy’s only previous international starts came in a Rugby World Cup warm-up victory against Italy and a routine success over minnows Romania at last autumn’s tournament in France.
The youngest member of Farrell’s 34-man Six Nations squad gained further attention following his impressive outing against Les Bleus after presenting his man-of-the-match medal to his elder brother Andrew.
“It was hard to miss him there, he was looking like a leprechaun in the crowd – a big Irish blazer,” he said.
“It was good to see the family after the game, it was special.”