Belfast Telegraph

RaboDirect Pro12: New boy Black relishes golden chance to lock horns with Ross

By Michael Sadlier

He’s got quite an evening ahead of him on Boxing Day.



Not only will Callum Black make his competitive debut for Ulster against Leinster but the 25-year-old prop will be up against Ireland’s first choice tighthead, the formidable Mike Ross.

You could understand if he was hardly thrilled at the prospect of locking horns with Ross — a self-confessed anorak of all things scrummaging — but American-born Black is not prepared to visibly show any signs of what could be a particularly hard night at the office as he steps up from Ravens duty to the PRO12 League.

Anyway, it’s not the done thing for props to be seen wincing the prospect of a challenge and Irish-qualified Black, who is in his first season at Ravenhill, is no exception.

“It’s great,” Black insists when the matter of packing down against Ross is brought up.

“Obviously you want to play against the best players and it will be a good challenge.

“I’ve chatted to lads who’ve played against him before and obviously I’ve been looking over videos and I know what he’s about and I’ll take that (knowledge) into the game,” he adds.

Black had barely arrived in Belfast when he suffered a neck injury in the pre-season friendly against Harlequins which kept him out until early November when he was able to play for Ballymena in the AIL. He has played about half-a-dozen times since then and featured in the Ravens’ British and Irish Cup campaign.

No longer under the radar, he faces a stiff examination of his credentials at the RDS on Boxing Day but, in that, he is not alone in an Ulster side that is top-heavy with Ravens players.

Black maintains the very fact that most of the side is used to playing together will be beneficial against the League leaders and that they will perform with pride and, significantly, without fear.

“If you look at the Ravens teams from the last couple of weeks the make-up of the team for Leinster has quite a lot of those players so we do have a bit of continuity and we certainly know each other’s play,” Black says.

It’s hardly the most compelling case when a glance at Leinster shows a side stacked with huge international power and experience, but Black will not be cowed by what is in front of him and his team-mates.

“Yes, we are a really young side going down there and while there may not be huge pressure (on us), we’re still playing for Ulster and it’s a competitive game and we’re going down there to win.

“We really need to put in a performance because obviously individually we’ve all been given this chance in the jersey so we all want to put our case forward and try and stay in that jersey for as long as possible.”

It all looks like a huge ask but Black, like his Ravens team-mates, still wants to stake his claim.

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