McLaughlin ready to 'get stuck in'
Kevin McLaughlin will make his Test debut in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations opener vowing to embrace the role of Ireland enforcer.
A knee injury to Stephen Ferris has cleared the way for McLaughlin to make an unlikely transition to the Test arena just a year after questioning his future in the sport and the industrious 25-year-old will be unleashed at Croke Park knowing it is his job to get "stuck into" wooden spoon favourites Italy.
"Six is the hammer man of the team and to make sure you lay down the tempo early on by getting a big hit in," he said. "Italy use a lot of close-in runners and try to take you on up front and get over the gainline. My role is to get stuck into them early on and get in their faces. I've got to be physical."
McLaughlin reached a decisive moment in his career last season when Leinster coach Michael Cheika warned his contract would not be renewed unless his fitness record improved.
A succession of injuries, combined with Rocky Elsom's presence in the number six jersey, left McLaughlin mulling over his career options.
But Elsom's departure for Australia and an injury-free run left Ireland coach Declan Kidney with an easy decision to make when Ferris failed to recover.
"Kevin has fought his way in after Rocky was in the position last year," said Kidney. "He wanted to get a certain number of games and acquitted himself well.
"He was going well in November but we didn't want to pick him (for the autumn internationals) because he had put such an effort in that we didn't want to overplay him.
"In December and January he's backed that u. He's been consistent with one of the better teams in Europe.
"The way he's gone about his business is a credit to him."