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Neil McComb is man for Met initiative

By Niall Crozier

Ulster lock Neil McComb has created history by becoming the new Belfast Met Rugby Academy's first ambassador.

Launched as recently as June, the Met's academy offers 30 individually-selected players aged 16 to 18 a unique full-time course, hopefully leading to a career in rugby.

Completion of the course – which combines academic study in tandem with athletic training with the focus on strength and conditioning, playing technique and tactical understanding – should result in a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport (Performance and Excellence).

The fact that McComb himself took an unconventional route into full-time professional sport made him the natural choice for the new ambassadorial role.

Having represented Ulster and Ireland at Schools, Under 18, 19 and 21 levels, he went off to complete his studies, only returning when he had his degree.

His unusual strategy paid off and in 2009 Ulster upgraded him from a development contract to full-time status.

Nor is the role of ambassador merely titular. Based on his own real-life experience, McComb will host tailored workshops and coaching sessions for the students, offering them advice on becoming a professional players.

McComb said: "It is clear to see there is much potential in these young athletes so I am looking forward to motivating and encouraging each of the students as they progress both on the pitch and in the classroom.

"The Academy provides a great opportunity for these young players to understand and progress their talent and skills, ensuring they develop to their maximum potential."

Marie-Therese McGivern, principal and chief executive of Belfast Met, said: "We are dedicated to playing an important role in providing a high quality educational environment for our learners and the structured curriculum offered in our Rugby Academy is a fantastic development opportunity for our future athletes."

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