Belfast Telegraph

Les is definitely more for Ulster winger Craig Gilroy

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's Craig Gilroy has revealed that the arrival of Les Kiss was a major influence in his decision to remain with his native province earlier this year.

While Rory Best and Rob Herring have recently followed suit, Gilroy was the first of Ulster's Irish-capped contingent to renew their contracts this season when he penned a two-year extension to his deal back in October.

Kiss (pictured with Gilroy) beginning his tenure as Ulster's Director of Rugby at the start of last month has convinced Gilroy that the side, after so many near-misses, are finally ready to win silverware.

"Les knows all the guys, and everyone has so much respect for him," the 24-year-old said.

"Being with Ireland over the last number of years brings that reputation and it's massive for us as players and for the fans to have Les come into the set-up.

"Everyone knows what he is about. We have to be 100 per cent patient as he will only take us further.

"He's fitted in so well and brings so much to the team and I honestly think he'll bring things along further.

"It's been a frustrating couple of years, we just haven't finished it off when silverware was there, but we are certainly capable of winning.

"I wouldn't have stayed on with Ulster if I didn't think so."

While such trophy-winning potential hasn't been overly evident in the season's opening months - Ulster have won just three out of their nine games in all competitions - Gilroy, rested for tonight's visit of Edinburgh, has stressed the need for patience even after back-to-back defeats at the hands of Saracens and Leinster.

"It's still early in the season and there are a lot of games to go yet," he said. "I honestly think we're in a good place. We lost the last two games but it was to quality opposition.

"We have the strength in the squad to bounce back. We do have a great squad. We do have everything at our feet; a new stadium, amazing facilities and great fans to top it off."

From a winger's standpoint, it's been a difficult patch for Gilroy with Ulster not enjoying enough possession to see the ball into their speedster's hands.

Despite the lack of chances, the former Methody pupil has still managed to lead the team in tries with four and, against Treviso, added an effort that gives him a real chance of winning PRO12 Try of the Year for a second successive campaign.

While not making the World Cup squad this time around, the fleet-footed Bangor native remains focused on adding to his six Ireland caps and revealed that he has chatted with national boss Joe Schmidt in the last month.

"A few of us met with him after the World Cup," he added. "He came to Belfast for a catch-up and I got to have a face-to-face with him. He let us know where we have been going well and gave us things to work on. He stressed how big a year it is coming up. It's a massive year for me, every year is a big year.

"I wanted to continue the form of last season, keep playing well, keep scoring tries and hopefully get an opportunity again for Ireland.

"My form is good. I'm still top try-scorer for Ulster which I hope to continue.

"A few of our performances haven't been great in terms of getting our hands on the ball but I'm just trying to do as much as possible.

"For me, it is about playing as well as I can for Ulster and then hopefully get a chance for Ireland.

"I know I'm a better player now than I was when I first played for Ireland. That is a big confidence booster for me."

Belfast Telegraph

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