Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Andrew vows to keep on grasping big opportunity

Ricky Andrew has impressed since making his first start for Ulster against Edinburgh in November
Ricky Andrew has impressed since making his first start for Ulster against Edinburgh in November

Even though he readily accepts that misfortune for others has catapulted him into Mark Anscombe's starting side Ricky Andrew has, nevertheless, taken his opportunity and run with it.

With Jared Payne, Adam D'Arcy, Peter Nelson and even auxiliary back Tommy Bowe all out of action, the 23-year-old Ulster Academy player has been asked to apply himself to turning out for the senior team and, so far, has largely fulfilled the job description in the six games he has been involved in since making his first start against Edinburgh in November.

Andrew is under no illusions that he is merely occupying the position until others are available again but all the while he is learning at the coal-face and, frankly, there is no better place to be if he wants to impress the Ulster coach.

"I've been lucky in a lot of respects," he admits.

"We've had injuries and I have been able to benefit so I've tried to enjoy it and I have to treat every game as if it could be my last."

He togs out on Friday night at Scotstoun for his third successive game off the back of a fairly accomplished performance last week against Zebre when he ran a nice line to grab the all-important bonus point try, which was also his first for Ulster, late on in the game.

"It was great to score the try and it didn't really sink in until after the game when I spoke to friends and family," stated Andrew.

"It was good to score alongside a lot of the lads I've come up through the Academy with and it meant I could share a special moment with them."

"It has also been great to get the run of games I've got and that I've been lucky that I've been able to settle in a bit."

It's all been a far cry from when he first played for the senior side. That was back on Boxing Day 2011 when Brian McLaughlin fielded a strikingly callow side to take on Leinster in Dublin and Andrew came off the bench late on as Ulster were unsurprisingly smashed 42-13.

It was tough but it was all part of the learning curve which when you consider that, in addition to Andrew, Michael Allen, Stuart Olding, Adam Macklin, Chris Cochrane, Conor Joyce and Ali Birch were all involved that evening has certainly not held anybody back from continuing to make progress.

Indeed, this season has seen emerging players being granted the space and encouragement to push through and challenge for more regular starts and, right now, with the Six Nations and the mounting injury toll hitting Ulster hard, the chances are now on offer again.

"I've just been grateful for the opportunities that have come my way this season," Andrew, who next season will progress to a development contract at Ulster, says.

"Young guys need a few games to settle into things," he adds.

"It is difficult to go straight into a team like Ulster and impress in your first game, in fact it is nigh on impossible," the Ballymena club player, who has also featured for Ulster Ravens, states with a knowing smile.

"But I don't go into games worrying about what could go wrong and mistakes will be made by younger players so it helps that there are great players around you.

"I think, though, that we've shown that the younger guys can come in and do a decent job."

A case of so far, so good.

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