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Browne determined to mark his continental bow with another vintage performance

By Michael Sadlier

Europe. It brings an extra edge to the atmosphere and an undeniable feeling that everything has just ramped up a notch or three.

And for Peter Browne, all that comes with an added agenda as the second row looks in line to make his European Champions Cup debut on Sunday when Ulster open their account at Bordeaux's rather cavernous Stade Chaban-Delmas.

All a far cry from last season when the England-raised but Ireland-qualified player - his clergyman father Leonard is from Belfast and attended Belfast Royal Academy where he represented Ireland Schools at rugby - was scratching around Ulster's 'A' team.

Yes, but the 28-year-old, who came from London Welsh in 2015, has shown for some time that he is ready and able to regularly start for Les Kiss' side.

Browne's Champions Cup bow has seemed only a matter of time after some sterling performances at the back end of the last campaign were built upon this season with him having been involved in five of Ulster's six games so far.

True, he hit a bit of a bump in the road last Friday in Connacht - though the weekend did at least improve as the Bristol-born player got engaged - but Browne wasn't alone on that score and knows that his appetite for work must be accompanied by greater accuracy on Sunday against a side with Ian Madigan pulling the strings and Adam Ashley-Cooper causing mayhem in the wide channels.

"I'm basically really excited and really looking forward to the opportunity to play," the former England Students ace said.

"I think I've made progress but I think it's also down to opportunity as well.

"I've had the opportunity to play more rugby and, in that way, there have been natural progressions.

"There have been areas I've been working on and my work-ons have been to put on a bit of weight and scrummage on the right side (behind the tight-head prop) which takes a bit more out of you around the park, but I'm enjoying the challenge of all of that.

"I feel like I've added my weight (to the squad) in that way and I just want to get out there and ball-carry and do my job in defence."

Of course, Dan Tuohy's absence has assisted in bringing Browne to the fore, and now that the Ireland international is back on the scene again the weekly scrap to make the match-day squad will only intensify.

For the moment, though, Browne still seems to be uppermost in Kiss' thoughts and he knows he must up his game - notable last season for having won 19 turnovers in 14 outings, which was impressive, though perhaps not surprising as Browne can also operate in the back row - to stay around the senior side.

Making it out of their group for the first time since 2014 is Ulster's primary aim in what is now an uneven playing field against the big-spending French and English clubs, so setting down a marker with a win in Bordeaux would be a dream start for Kiss' squad.

And, yes, winning in France is not so unusual any more - Ulster have triumphed in four of their last five games on French territory - but will only be achieved if the squad have well and truly moved on from last Friday's mixed effort against Connacht which ended in their first defeat of the season.

"We've been honest with each other and had some good team meetings," Browne admitted of the post-Galway experience.

"The sessions we have done have reinforced what we're about, especially defensively to reinforce that we know our roles."

And the second row maintained: "We're in a really good place now."

Though he is about to experience European rugby for the first time, Browne has at least played in France before - he mentions a game in Bayonne while at Harlequins - and has an appreciation of what is coming.

"It's a different style of rugby but Bordeaux have good players, a big pack and some creative backs as well," he added.

"We know they're a threat at the scrum and maul and in those tight areas where they want to do stuff so we've got to be ready for that.

"We'll take them on physically and then move them around the park.

"We believe we can do a job and we believe in the game-plan we have. We'll be ready for it."

He sounds well up to tackle this new challenge.

Belfast Telegraph


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