Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

RaboDirect Pro12: Players primed to pitch in after Nevin Spence tragedy

Paddy Wallace is back in contention for Ulster

In the wake of Nevin Spence’s death alongside his brother and father, Ulster’s players now just want to return to action.

They will do so on Friday night when they face Cardiff Blues in the RaboDirect PRO12 at the Arms Park.

Coach Mark Anscombe said: “What we need now is to move on. That’s what he (Nevin) would have done.”

Captain Johann Muller said: “For me the stand-out thing was to speak to his mum and his sister on Sunday at the memorial (service) at Ravenhill. The strength and the comfort that they have, for me, was an absolute eye-opener.

“I was there standing in tears and his sister was patting me on the back.

“It has been very personal and it has been really, really tough. But if Nev was in this room right now he would want us to move on, get back on the horse and start going again. As long as this club exists, that man will never be forgotten. But on Sunday the message from his mum and his sister was really clear — go out and start playing rugby again.”

But Ulster have been dealt a fresh blow with the news that teenager Chris Farrell is out for the season.

Anscombe said: “Chris has gone for the season, which is a shame for the young man. We obviously had some plans for him this year; he was going to be one of our developments. But he has done his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).”

Farrell’s injury following the tragic death of Nevin Spence leaves Ulster stretched.

“When you take two quality players out of your midfield, it’s always going to challenge you there,” Anscombe admitted. But he added: “Young Luke Marshall has stepped up and got himself into a national training squad, so he’s been doing a good job.”

And describing Paddy Wallace as “bouncing about like a 22-year-old, in good spirits and champing at the bit to get out there,” Anscombe added: “He’s now back for consideration; he could be available this weekend.

“And Darren Cave’s in the national team, so we’ve got some choices there.”

Elaborating on those he continued: “We’ve got Michael Allen, too, and even Jared Payne if need be so I think that in developing the group it’s important that we give ourselves that balance and depth in all positions.”

But Anscombe was dismissive when asked if the availability of Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy for the wing berths might see Andrew Trimble deployed in the centre, saying: “He’s an international-class winger and that’s where we see him at the moment. We haven’t got to the stage just yet where we start looking at our wingers to move in. We’ll keep him where we think he helps us pose the greatest threat.”

Meanwhile, the Zebre v Ulster RaboDirect PRO12 game postponed following the death of Nevin Spence, has been re-arranged. The sides now will meet at the Stadio XXV Aprile, Parma on Sunday, November 18 (2pm), less than 24 hours after Ireland play Fiji at Thomond Park.

The game will be available to BBC NI viewers via the red button.

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