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All you need to know about Ulster's new signing Henry Speight

By Gareth Hanna

Ulster Rugby have confirmed the signing of Australian international Henry Speight on a short-term contract.

As reported in the Belfast Telegraph last month, Speight is being brought in as injury cover for Louis Ludik and David Busby in a similar deal to that which saw fellow Brumbies player Christian Lealiifano arrive in Belfast last season.

Ludik could be out until November with a hamstring problem while Busby picked up an injury in pre-season and will miss the first half of the season. That's after former All Blacks full-back Charles Piutau moved on and both Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble retired, leaving Ulster's back line seriously depleted.

Speight will return to Australia on 31st December in advance of the 2019 Super Rugby season.

But what do you need to know about Ulster's newest recruit?

Everything you need to know about new Ulster signing Henry Speight

Full name: Ratu Henry Vao'ofu Speight

Age: 30 (DOB 25 March 1988)

Height: 186cm

Weight: 97kg

Nicknames: Silky, Fijian Flyer

Super Rugby career: Speight has played for Brumbies in Super Rugby since 2011. He has amassed 108 appearances since his debut against the Chiefs, scoring 205 points including 41 tries. He was the Australian Conference's leading try-scorer in 2012 and 2013.

How has he played in Belfast before? The most keen rugby supporter may remember Speight in action back in 2007 at the U19 Rugby World Championships. He was playing for his native Fiji and ended the tournament T16th in points scored, with 25 notched up including an eye-catching chip-and-chase try in the 23-12 defeat to Australia at Shaw's Bridge.

I thought you said he was an Australian international? He is. After spending 2011 and 2012 as the Brumbies' foreign development player, he was granted permanent residency in Australia and became eligible to star for the Wallabies at the end of 2013. He made his debut during the 2014 spring tour and has picked up 19 international caps to date, scoring four tries.

RUGBYU Irel_30.jpg
Australia's Henry Speight up against Ireland's Peter O'Mahony back in 2014.

Any injury problems? It's a fair question, given Ulster's recent injury headaches. He picked up an ankle injury in the last match of the 2018 Super Rugby season on July 14, but has been medically cleared to play before the Guinness PRO14 kicks off.

What's his big career goal now? Speight missed out on a place in the Australian squad for June's series against Ireland but he's fired up to make sure he gets back in ahead of the World Cup next year.

What sort of player is he?  In terms of a playing style, it was explained well by rugby.com, who said his "magical left-right steps, awesome fend and hard running style" have "captivated crowds". Speight has been called "one of the most consistent wingers in Australian rugby" (ESPN).

In terms of temperament, he seems to be quiet but a wise head. His Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said earlier this year that "his attitude has been really good around the group and he's a leader. He doesn't say a lot, Henry, but when he does, the boys listen."

Show us his skills: Well here's his most eye-catching performance of the 2018 Super Rugby season, when he scored two tries as Brumbies beat Sunwolves 41-31 in Week 16:

One final comment on Speight: He has great hair. We simply couldn't leave that out.

PANews BT_P-2abf0b6d-f3f0-4a28-8362-ec6c37c5ca8d_I1.jpg
Henry Speight's eye-catching hair deserves a mention.

What has he said about joining Ulster? “I’m excited to have the opportunity to represent a big club like Ulster. I’ve spoken to Christian (Leali'ifano) a lot regarding this move and he had only great things to say about the staff, players, supporters and wider community, which welcomed him with open arms.

“This is a fresh challenge for me and I hope to embrace it by relishing every moment and by adding value to the group as best I can. I can’t wait to arrive in Belfast and get to work with my new teammates.”

What did Bryn Cunningham (Ulster’s Operations Director) say? “Henry has X factor quality and has consistently proven himself as a top performer at both Super Rugby and International level, with his most recent displays for the Brumbies being eye-catching. We hope he will quickly become be a real fans’ favourite at Kingspan Stadium.

“His presence will also support the development of the young back three players within our senior and Academy squads. We saw the significant impact Christian had on Johnny McPhillips last year and we would hope that Henry will provide us with something similar.”

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