If the team does well, then the individual benefits. Such is the mantra espoused by provincial coaches.
]Therefore, it is good to see Ulster’s success being reflected in the squad selections for the tour to New Zealand. Not a place for a bunch of rookies, so no surprise in the balance between youth and experience.
After his remarkable cameo in the Heineken semi-final coupled with the dearth of tighthead props, Declan Fitzpatrick is worth his weight his gold – and that’s a lot of gold. Merited it might be, but one could argue that Stephen Ferris would be far better served enjoying a well-earned rest and a solid pre-season regime.
Darren Cave and Dan Tuohy were some of the few who left Twickenham with their reputations enhanced. The former needs to spend the maximum time alongside Brian O’Driscoll and glean as much knowledge as possible. As we saw, the old warhorse has still ‘got it’, and Cave will return a wiser and improved player. Meanwhile, Tuohy’s call-up makes a mockery of his Six Nations omission — better late than never.
Elsewhere, one hopes that Chris Henry and Paul Marshall will occupy two of the still vacant spots. With Reddan and Murray already named, how much more would Declan Kidney learn about Isaac Boss? Marshall deserves this opportunity.
I am most disappointed for Craig Gilroy. I believe that he has shown sufficient all-round skill to merit being selected ahead of Simon Zebo. Instead, after his holidays, Gilroy can get launched into pre-season as his provincial rugby will become even more competitive with Tommy Bowe’s arrival.
Finally, spare a thought for Paddy Wallace, chronically underused by Ireland in the Six Nations, and now sacrificed for the BOD/D’Arcy centre partnership. Leinster has trumped Ulster in this regard.
The selections augur well for Ulster Rugby and further validate the success of the season and the job well done by Brian McLaughlin and his coaching team.