Humphreys has to fight harder to nail Ulster place
Ian Humphreys knows all about the difficulties of being the young brother of a rugby icon.
The 27-year-old’s sibling, David, is the best known Ulster player in decades, having chalked up a host of records in the colours and cause of his Province; most career points (786), a total of 170 penalties and 102 conversions.
Add nine drop goals, the most memorable of those being his late, late gem from 40 metres which gave Ulster a 19-17 victory over Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium and saw them pip Leinster to the 2005/06 Magners League title. Toss in a magnificent European Cup semi-final try to oust Stade Francais in January 1999 en route to Ulster winning the trophy, plus 560 points in 72 Irish appearances, and you have an Ulster and Ireland legend.
The fact that he is now Ulster Rugby’s Operations Director does not make Humphreys the Younger’s task any easier. In order to avoid any suggestion of nepotism, he is required to make an irrefutable case. A possible victim of converse discrimination.
Humphreys Junior started in the season-opening Ravenhill friendly win over Newcastle Falcons and again in Friday night’s 25-3 romp at the Sixways Stadium where he weighed in with two penalties and a brace of conversions against Worcester Warriors.
Now Brian McLaughlin has an important decision to make ahead of Sunday’s Magners League joust against Newport Gwent Dragons, Ulster’s first competitive outing of 2009/10.
The experienced Paddy Wallace — 16 Irish caps — who has just turned 30, is his first choice. But when he is absent it comes down to Humphreys and Niall O’Connor, who was a member of the 2009 Churchill Cup-winning squad and played in Ulster’s 53-5 rout of Viadana last week.
Both will await, with interest, details of the team to face Newport for confirmation of where they stand in the pecking order.