Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Fitzpatrick hails Ulster rugby aces

Ulster celebrate after beating Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup semi-final in Dublin
Ulster celebrate after beating Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup semi-final in Dublin

An All Blacks rugby star has assured Stormont's political leaders that Ulster has a fighting chance of upsetting the odds and lifting the Heineken Cup.

World Cup winner Sean Fitzpatrick met Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness on a visit to Belfast to promote youth sports.

Earlier, the famed New Zealand hooker was welcomed to a project in the Ballymurphy estate in the west of the city backed by the international sporting movement Laureus.

While Government investment in sport was top of the agenda for the political meeting at Stormont Castle, the First and Deputy First Minister did find time to press Fitzpatrick, a Laureus ambassador, for his thoughts on Saturday's final against Leinster at Twickenham.

"I said if I was betting with my head I would say Leinster, but you never know, once you get to the final it can go either way," the 92-time capped Kiwi star said afterwards. "They've got a wonderful opportunity now they've got to the final.

"Who knows once you actually get into a final? They've shown ,and they showed in the quarters and semi and pool play especially, that they are a team to be reckoned with.

"Saying that, they are up against one of the old wily dogs in a very experienced Leinster team who I am sure will want to build on what they achieved last year (winning the Heineken Cup in Cardiff)."

During his visit to Ballymurphy, Fitzpatrick met young people taking part in the Urban Stars project, even trying his hand at hurling. He also met Justice Minister David Ford and Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin on his visit to Belfast.

"As a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, I've been privileged to support a wide range of sports projects around the world," he said.

"One thing remains consistent in all the projects I've visited and those I've been told about by other Laureus Academy members: as our patron Nelson Mandela said, 'sport has the power to change the world'."

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