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Joining Ulster an easy decision after Leali'ifano praise: Speight

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Wallaby wing Henry Speight is out to emulate his old pal Christian Leali'ifano and become a big, if short-term, hit at Kingspan Stadium.

The 30-year-old, who will be a part of the Ulster squad until December 31, makes his debut against Scarlets at Kingspan Stadium this evening (5.15pm) and has revealed it was his Brumbies and Australia team-mate Leali'ifano who persuaded him to make the switch, where he will cover for injuries suffered by Louis Ludik, Luke Marshall and Jacob Stockdale.

"I'm always looking for an experience other than Super Rugby after over 100 games with the Brumbies over eight seasons, and Christian (Leali'ifano) had an awesome time here and said nothing bad about the club. Everything I asked, it was met with a positive answer," said Speight. "The only thing Christian had to say negatively was that he couldn't stay longer. That speaks volumes of the club, the community and the city.

"So it was a no-brainer. Obviously when Ulster came knocking, and with a few injuries to the back three, I thought I could come in and contribute to the team as much as I can.

"On a personal level, I come with a clean slate, it's a new club and I feel like a new kid at school. I just want to put my best foot forward and contribute wherever the team needs me, in midfield or on the wings.

"I want to leave a better player than I arrived two weeks ago."

Ulster have traditionally been strong on the opening weekend, losing on only one occasion since 2009, but 2017 champions and last season's beaten finalists Scarlets will likely be seen as a different challenge.

"It's a great game to start off with," said Speight. "There's a lot of stats to back up their position in making the final last season and we'll have to focus on our game plan and try and stay as composed as we can, not be forced into too many errors as on the counter-attack they scored a lot of tries and probably topped the stats on that from last season. They have a dangerous team in attack and we have to contain them."

Speight is one of three new faces in the Ulster starting side with out-half Billy Burns and full-back Will Addison also making their first appearances. Other new signings Marty Moore and Jordi Murphy have to wait for their bows thanks to injury and player management respectively.

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