Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Well-travelled Lutton furthers his education

He's been around the game for a while now so last Saturday wasn't the first time Ricky Lutton had been on the losing side at Twickenham, even though he hadn't been there in his native province's colours before.

Not that it any of it made Ulster's Heineken Cup exit any easier but the 27-year-old much-travelled prop – who remained on the bench against Saracens thanks to the jetted-in John Afoa – was at least able to draw on some of his experiences, which have certainly been better than Ulster's recent record at the RFU's headquarters, to give the some definition to the gloom.

The three times Oxford Blue, who was on the winning side in the 2008 Varsity game, also togged out at Twickenham for Loughborough University and England Students and to this pretty impressive CV can be added spells playing in Australia and New Zealand.

"I've learned from playing around the world," Lutton who holds a Masters degree from Oxford says, "and taking a few beatings helps to deal with disappointment when it happens."

Still, he doesn't want to linger on the Saracens defeat and instead quickly turns his attention to the PRO12 League, the only opportunity Ulster now have to lift all-important silverware.

"Now we have to move on and there is still a trophy to be played for and we're really focused," he says of Ulster's drive to secure a home semi-final which will see him make his fifth appearance for Ulster in Friday night's clash with the Dragons.

His elevation to the environs of the senior squad has been unexpected and Lutton, who was given a development contract at the start of this season and also instructed to shunt across the scrum to learn the trade at tight-head prop, has been called upon to step up due to injury.

He was certainly not found wanting when, after three games off the bench, he was pitched in at the end of last month for his first start against Leinster, at the RDS, which brought him into direct confrontation with Cian Healy.

On paper, it looked like a mismatch, but Lutton was well up for the task and anchored the Ulster scrum for most of the game which not only saw Ulster claim their first win in Dublin for 14 years but also brought some much-needed impetus to their then vulnerable looking PRO12 campaign.

"It wasn't an easy one," Lutton says smiling at the memory of meeting Healy.

"He just shook my hand afterwards and said 'well played' and I was reasonably happy with how it went but obviously being surrounded by our pack made it easier for me.

His route towards the professional game has hardly been orthodox but, at 27, he at least has time on his side as most props have yet to hit their peak.

Lutton's season in Christchurch, where he played for Canterbury's B side and trained with their ITM Cup squad then under the gaze of now Munster coach Rob Penney, seems to have been the making of him as on his return to Belfast Harlequins he ended up being named Ulster Rugby Club Player of the Year last May.

Ravenhill recognised his ability and then brought him on board though he knows he has to continue impressing while the opportunities offer themselves.

"I need to hone my technique and keep developing and I'll be really looking to kick on next year. I think I can still get a lot better."

So far, he's already doing pretty well.

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