Ulster Rugby legend Paddy Wallace to shape stars of the future
Ulster Rugby legend Paddy Wallace has set his sights on finding the next generation of sports stars.
After a distinguished career with the club, the record holder is set to retire at the end of this season. But he'll be using his wealth of experience from Ulster by setting up a new youth academy to find the next Rory Best or Paddy Jackson.
The 34-year-old told the Belfast Telegraph he was excited about The Paddy Wallace Rugby Academy and its aims to start players young and build them to a world class level.
Upcoming rugby camps aimed at boys and girls aged seven to 14 will be held at five clubs this summer – Bangor, Belfast Harlequins, Civil Service, Coleraine and Holywood.
"I really hope to give the young players a taste of what professionals go through," he said.
"I will try to steer them in the right habits and techniques to improve themselves and also good nutrition education.
"The All Blacks are so good because they do the basics so well and I will be making that a huge part of my camp."
Paddy played 189 times for Ulster and won 30 caps for Ireland but a bad knee injury in February 2013 has prematurely ended his professional playing career.
His first involvement with Ulster's senior side was in 1998, while he was still a pupil at Campbell College.
He trained with the squad over summers when he was studying business and marketing at University College Dublin and then took up a professional contract after graduation.
Paddy has called Ulster "my home for all my life" and says he will miss the fans and being in the thick of professional rugby, but will still be cheering on the lads at Ravenhill.
"Before the injury I was playing some of the best rugby I've played," he said.
"That was at 33-years-old. I had hoped to play on for another two years."
Paddy is now focusing his energy on the new academy. He and his wife Tina are also the busy parents of two young children, PJ and Leila, but neither of the youngsters are sold on the idea of a rugby career just yet.
"They are more interested in their iPads at the moment," Paddy added.
"But PJ, my son, is seven, so he will hopefully be coming along to the camps and starting the process of rugby."
Paddy is going to take the next few months to grow his business and consider other projects too.
"I am interested in the business side of the sport. I am hoping to pursue the sports management side of rugby, providing a service to players, dealing with their contracts, the commercial side.
"I am undecided whether to go out by myself or join an existing company, but in the immediate future it's the academy."
For more information, visit www.paddywallacerugby.com
Paddy Wallace made his Ulster debut against Swansea in August 2001 and has represented Ulster more than any other player with 189 caps. A versatile back who could also play outhalf or fullback, he found his niche in the centre and had a reputation as a playmaker. Educated at Campbell College Belfast, Paddy was part of Ireland's U-19 Rugby World Cup winning side in 1999. He won his first Ireland cap against South Africa in November 2006. He was also a member of Irish squad that won the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2009.