Magners League: Ulster star McAllister planning to cherish his big chance
Prop Paddy McAllister will get another chance to enhance his growing reputation when he starts at loose head on Monday in the Magners League game with Leinster.
The Ballynahinch front row has already played for Ireland at Schools, Under-19 and Under-20 level and combines powerful scrummaging with tireless ball carrying around the pitch.
He will come into the front row for Tom Court who is rested, and McAllister wants to seize the opportunity.
He said: “In pre-season I had a few goals and I was very focused and motivated on what I wanted to accomplish this year. I've been working very hard and trying to get as much game time as I can.
“It's opportunities like this when the internationals are away that I can get a start, and I just have to continue to work hard.”
There is never an easy opponent in the front row but on his second start for Ulster McAllister had to scrum against Ireland centurion John Hayes, and was one of the bright sparks on the night when Munster won at Ravenhill.
“It's guys like that you want to scrum against, and those guys that you want to set a marker down against,” added McAllister.
“Coming into that game I knew Declan Kidney would be watching and I wanted to impress. This week I'll be coming up against Mike Ross and that will be another big challenge.
“You have to give John Hayes the respect he deserves — he is a real genuine nice guy, but playing against him gets you so motivated.
“The week before the game there was a bit of nerves but that turns into excitement. At the first scrum you look at the guy and think ‘I've been watching him since I was 10’ — it is just a great feeling.”
Ross has a point to prove after being overlooked for the autumn internationals despite being part of the squad, and he has hit top form.
He was instrumental in helping Leinster to take five points from their two Heineken Cup games with Clermont — the tight head won his scrummaging duel with Thomas Domingo — and McAllister feels it will be another hard day at the office.
“I think Mike Ross is one of the best tight head scrummagers in Europe and I think it is going to be my hardest challenge yet,” he added. “But I'm looking forward to it a lot, although it is going to be very tough. People have told me when I was growing up the more times you get screwed the better prop you are. Hopefully I'm not going to get screwed, but it's going to be really tough and I hope I can get the better of it.
“I've looked at the video of Leinster's scrums and you're looking at technique or any angle where they have a fault that will give you an advantage.”
At 21 McAllister is still learning the dark arts of front row play but he has a wealth of knowledge to tap into with the likes of BJ Botha and Court passing on their expertise and experience. But he is fighting to get a place in front of the internationals although he is happy to bide his time.
“After the games we sit down and look at the videos and BJ Botha, Tom Court and Jeremy Davidson go over where I've went wrong and try to fix it throughout the week,” he said.
“Then I try and put it right during the game so it's all trial and error by a prop.
“It's not really until you get older that you start peaking so I'm doing the hard work now.
“This is where I want to be. I'm 21 and working hard to be a sub for a team where the guys in front of me are internationals and one is a World Cup winner, so I don't want to be anywhere else.
“I'm learning everything I can off them and hopefully one day I’ll take their spot. I'm living the dream.
“People say to me I'm waking up with a smile on my face and I'm enjoying every second of it.”