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From Azur Allison to Nathan Doak: Five players who have been standing out Ulster's A side this season

Azur Allison
Azur Allison
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

The Ulster 'A' side are back in action against the  Connacht Eagles at Ballymena's Eaton Park on Friday afternoon (4pm kick-off, free entry) having made a perfect start to the Celtic Cup campaign.

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Despite utilising only Abbey Insurance Academy players, bolstered by the sub academy and club game, Kieran Campbell's side have banked ten points from a possible ten in wins over Scarlets and most recently Cardiff.

Ahead of round three, here's who's been catching the eye:

Nathan Doak

The son of former Ulster scrum-half and head coach Neil, this young nine has been gaining rave reviews from senior players this summer.  A kicking game that allows him to dictate the tempo and move the opposition around the park, he appears comfortable off either foot. Not just a field marshall, his behind-the-back offload for Conor Rankin in Saturday's win at Gibson Park produced an early contender for try of the campaign. He'd no time to revel in his strong display though...he was back in school come Monday morning.

David McCann and Azur Allison

Paired together as so often on Saturday they appeared to be providing a one-two punch in both defence and attack. Having both represented the Ireland under-20s in Argentina this summer, they've come straight back into provincial duty without missing a beat. Despite a yellow card, Allison was probably the pick of the bunch against Cardiff but there was little to choose between him and McCann. It was fitting that when the number eight did go over for his score, it was the hard carries of his skipper who had helped punch the hole.

Callum Reid

The RBAI Schools' Cup winner comes from the same year-group as Michael Lowry and James Hume, the trio all enjoying huge success at Inst under current Ulster skills coach Dan Soper. Reid was out of the system for a few seasons but has joined up with the Academy this year and already is making a strong impression. A robust carrier, he provides a real dynamism in the loosehead shirt in tandem with fellow front-rowers Tom Stewart and Peter Cooper.

Hayden Hyde

With his arrival into the Academy first flagged just 24 hours before the senior side took on Leinster in a Champions Cup quarter-final, it understandably went under the radar somewhat but this is a player with real promise who follows in the footsteps of Sam Arnold and Kieran Treadwell in coming to Belfast from the pathways at Harlequins. A former back-rower, his powerful running should come as no surprise and, playing 13 on Saturday, he scored one try and helped create another.

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