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Marcus sure rivalry with older brother Matthew can help propel pair to the top


Over the line: Ulster’s Marcus Rea scores a try last season
Over the line: Ulster’s Marcus Rea scores a try last season
Mattie and Marcus Rea

By Michael Sadlier

It's been quite a while since just memorising lineout calls and a few special moves would suffice when it comes to forwards' approach to playing, but it's also worth noting that off-field preparation has also continually ramped up.

As up and coming back-rower Marcus Rea explains, the computer suite at the Kingspan can be a busy place never mind the other extra bits of work he puts in when cramming to absorb information designed at constantly improving his game.

"There's a big squad movement towards everyone getting into the computers and there are hardly any of the computers free for any of the players to get on," says the player who should feature in Ulster's expanded squad for tomorrow's first pre-season outing against Glasgow Warriors before turning 22 on Sunday.

"So you have to be waiting for about 10 minutes to get onto the computer."

And away from his workplace Rea also studies footage of world-class operators including Australia's David Pocock and former All Black great Richie McCaw.

"I look back at videos of McCaw and Pocock just to see the way they play the game," he says.

"Two different players, so you get a good contrast from what you're looking for."

Rea, who made a try-scoring debut off the bench in last April's narrow home win over Leinster, while playing alongside older brother Matthew (25), also mentions checking out footage of new Ulster forwards coach and ex-Edinburgh flanker Roddy Grant which is not about being diplomatic.

"I've been learning wee things from him. Having chats with him and even the way he moves as I've watched a bit of video of him when he played, looking at the lines he ran," he says.

"He's played seven as well and that would be a position I would look to nail down at some stage."

So, plenty of work is being done by the former Ballymena Academy pupil leaving aside all the load from the gym and the training paddock. "Yes. I would do a wee bit on my own. You learn from sitting down and having a watch. It could put you in a better position for maybe a phase later," he says.

As Rea, sounding considerably older than his years, admits: "There has been a complete psychological change and shift from where it (the game) had been before."

Sentiment has also little place in this environment. That moment last season when he made his senior debut, played alongside his brother, scored the winning try, and all this in front of his family too, is noted but as nothing more than mere fact.

"It was nice to get on with Matthew and share that moment with him, and the family, but as soon as Monday rolled around we were all back to square one and fighting for position."

With the brothers seeking senior game-time and both, primarily, being back-rowers - Mattie can play at lock - it would be understandable if sibling rivalry was rather intense in the Rea household.

"There's competition," says Marcus, "but it's more about helping each other. I want him to go as far as he can and he wants me to go as far as I can."

The younger Rea also has leadership ambitions.

"At the minute I'm learning the basics of it. I skippered a wee bit in my U19s year at both Ulster and Irish levels so it's definitely an avenue I'd love to build on," he says.

"You can't have too many leaders in a team and especially people that are really driving standards and that's something I'm learning from the likes of Hendy (Iain Henderson).

"You listen to what they say and that's something that's come through a combination of respect, time and experience. Hopefully that will come (for me)."

It's not altogether surprising to find out that he likes to be vocal on the park. "Yeah. I like to talk to the referee and if I can keep him on my side then hopefully he'll turn a blind eye to a few things," he says.

Like it was with McCaw?


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