Belfast Telegraph

Magners League: Spence making sweet music for Ulster

By Michael Sadlier

Right now Nevin Spence finds himself in a pretty good place.

Ulster have managed to establish a foothold in the Magners League play-off zone and, of course, there is the matter of a Heineken Cup quarter-final looming large next month with all this being nicely choreographed alongside the 20-year-old impressively breaking through into the side.

At the weekend he was even mentioned in a national newspaper as a late contender to force his way into Declan Kidney’s World Cup squad. And that was no idle punt; he could well manage it.

So, how is Spence coping with the rave reviews and upwardly mobile progress that he is making in Ulster’s midfield?

Well, he’s gone out and bought himself a decent pair of headphones for his iPod.

“It’s not usually like me as I’m known to be pretty tight with money, but I’ve invested in a pair of expensive headphones,” he says grinning before adding that: “I just went for it and I’ve never looked back since as it’s great for plane journeys.”

Paulo Natini and Adele will be getting an airing tomorrow as he takes the short hop to Glasgow, but it’s a far from ideal scenario for Spence whose usual pre-match routine is facing some disruption.

“Home games are particularly good as I like to sleep all day,” the 17-times capped Ulster centre admits.

“This week I think we’re flying in and out in a day so I’m going to be disrupted slightly but, to be honest, I think it’s just all in the head.

“I like to sleep all day so I’m ready to go for the game which means then that I don’t sleep so well after the game but . . .”

Whether he gets to pursue his preferred routine, or not, Spence has made a huge impact on the side with his combination of cutting edge in attack and strength in defence considerably bolstering Ulster’s midfield presence.

Since coming on as a late substitute in Ulster’s 35-15 Heineken Cup defeat at Biarritz, back in mid-October, he has been involved in all but three of Ulster’s subsequent 16 games and has scored three tries with the most memorable being his head-over-heels effort in the win at Bath.

His rise has not gone unnoticed and his form was rewarded with two caps for Ireland Wolfhounds earlier this season. Again, he made a favourable impression and word that he is on Declan Kidney’s radar has been quietly spreading. Such notions are wisely batted away.

“I did see it (the article in the national newspaper) but I took it with a pinch of salt. At the end of the day, unless it’s Declan Kidney writing the article it doesn’t really matter as far as I’m concerned.

“I just need to concentrate on keeping my place at Ulster,” Spence says emphasising that with Darren Cave back to fitness there is now intense competition to stay in the side.

Anyway, his focus is very much on tomorrow night at Firhill when he expects to possibly be facing Scotland international Max Evans; a challenge sure to be another considerable test for the ever-improving Spence and his team-mates.

With five league games remaining, Ulster know they simply must keep winning and with rather more assuredness than last week when they needed Ruan Pienaar’s last-gasp drop goal to shade it against the Dragons.

Defensively, Ulster succumbed to several wobbly moments though Spence maintains all has been ironed out this week. He also points out that the frantic endgame was actually a sign of a side in possession of considerable mental toughness.

“I think we can take confidence in the fact that even if there’s one minute left we can still win a game.

“For some reason I never thought we were going to lose it last Friday and Ruan pulled it off again. Mind you, we don’t want to be in too many more situations like that,” Spence adds.

Yes, best not to dwell on that thought; maybe time to get Adele back on those pricey headphones.

Belfast Telegraph


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