Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Magner's League: Paddy Wallace happy to show he is Mr Versatile

Paddy Wallace isn’t going to rock any Ulster or Ireland boats by insisting that he would prefer to play in one position rather than another.

“Ready and willing to line out where chosen” is his diplomatic response when asked if he prefers to wear 12 or 10.

Last weekend against Connacht in Galway he began at outside-half and finished at inside centre.

His initial deployment was as per a request by Ireland coach Declan Kidney that Ulster use him at half-back. There will be more such requests as Kidney attempts to weigh up all of his options ahead of the 2011 World Cup, a fact of which Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin is aware and one which he accepts.

However, one strongly suspects that McLaughlin will be a lot happier tonight having been free to include Wallace in midfield against Glasgow.

One also suspects the player himself will be happier with that, albeit that he knows adaptability could be his guarantee of a place on the plane to New Zealand 12 months hence. That is a reality of which he is very aware.

“I think Niall (O’Connor) has done very well so my inclusion at out-half last week obviously was a directive from the IRFU,” Wallace said.

“That’s frustrating for the players who are missing out and I appreciate that. But looking down the line, if I can add that string to my bow and show I’m capable of playing 10 or coming off the bench to play there then I’m happy to do that.” He admits, too, that while he and everyone else in the Ulster squad would have taken a pre-season offer of three wins and a draw from the first four Magners League games, there is frustration that the returns have not been greater.

“Performance-wise we know we’re capable of a massive improvement on what we’ve shown so far. You never want to peak too early but I think we all know we can make an improvement as a group,” he reveals.

He is also encouraged by the fact that Ulster have chalked up results even though they haven’t played to anything like their full potential at this stage.

“The squad’s not settled yet either,” he points out. “You take the IRFU policy about resting guys. Myself, Rory (Best), Stevie (Ferris) and Tom (Court) have been rested sporadically in keeping with that.

“And last week we were without Johann (Muller). Ruan (Pienaar) hasn’t played for us yet.

“So once we get past all of that and are able to field our best best starting team and can start to gel together, then hopefully people will see what we can do.

“Obviously there’s a lot more to come from this squad. Results so far show the depth we have in the squad now.

“When international players haven’t been available, or Stevie has been injured or BJ has been out — and Ruan’s only joining us now, remember — we’ve still been able to win matches without those guys.

“That’s very encouraging. We’ve played four games, we’re unbeaten and we haven’t had our full side out yet. To be where we are in the table, in those circumstances, probably is something we would not have been capable of in previous seasons.

“As players we can take great heart from that and I think our supporters can, too.

“Of course, a few injuries could change things very quickly as we could be struggling in a few areas.

“But there’s probably more cause for optimism than before because we do have that extra strength in depth. If there are injuries then it’s up to those who come in to do their job in keeping with that winning mentality we’re developing.

“Winning — or not losing — is a habit. Munster have that and in recent seasons Leinster have developed it, too.

“I think the signings we have made this year will help us in that respect because having come from successful teams they have brought a winning habit with them.”

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