Fast-rising Ulster star Nevin Spence has taken another massive stride forward with Ireland coach Declan Kidney naming him in the extended squad for Sunday’s Dublin date with France.
It represents remarkable progress by the 20-year-old centre who is fast-tracking his way through Irish rugby.
To have made it into the senior squad after only a dozen Ulster appearances confirms just how highly rated he is, and with the match day 22 due to be announced tomorrow, his inclusion alongside iconic seniors like Lions pair Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell will have given the youngster’s confidence a huge boost.
His call-up also represents a big thumbs-up to Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin who has brought him through at just the right pace after first spotting his potential when Spence played for Wallace High School against Royal Belfast Academical Institution.
McLaughlin has entrusted him with more and more responsibility. In Darren Cave’s injury-enforced absence, Spence has grabbed the chance with both hands.
McLaughlin said: “I am absolutely delighted for Nevin. He is an excellent young player who has had a great season for Ulster so far.
“He thoroughly deserves this. He has worked hard and is playing well. Now having done it for Ulster and the Wolfhounds, this is the next step in the process.
“I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Spence has made five appearances for Ulster in this term’s Heineken Cup — four of them as a starter — plus four in the Magners League, and has scored a try in each of those competitions.