Lutton aims to make most of his Ulster call
SOMETIMES when opportunity knocks, it can bring with it something you weren't quite anticipating.
And so it undoubtedly was with Ricky Lutton, who was not only informed that he was now the starting tight-head prop tonight against Zebre, thanks to Declan Fitzpatrick going down with illness, but, rather less thrillingly, that his elevation also required him to attend the squad's media day.
Still, the fact that he was back in the team was all that really mattered as he turned up fresh from training with precious little time to prepare for his ordeal by interview.
With John Afoa now back in New Zealand, Lutton had already been targeting the games over the festive period as a chance to impress coach Mark Anscombe but now, instead of warming the bench and waiting for the call to action, he has been handed a great opening to show what he can do.
And with Afoa decamping to Gloucester at the end of this season, there is no better time than now for the versatile prop – he can play both sides of the scrum – to remind Anscombe that he is more than a viable option.
Having just completed two stints playing for the Ulster Ravens in the British and Irish Cup, the 27-year-old – who skippered the side in last week's revenge win over Ayr – is understandably keen to get some game-time again for the senior side after a notably impressive debut in last season's first win over Leinster in Dublin for 14 years, an occasion when Lutton more than held his own against a certain Cian Healy.
"There is a lot of rugby played around this time of year and I always knew that there would be some opportunity, but it's great to be involved from the start," said Lutton.
"Hopefully I can get a few more starts off the back of it too," the former Oxford Blue, who also holds a Masters degree from his time there, added.
Indeed, his last Ulster start was in the PRO12 win against Treviso back in September and, since then, the Belfast Harlequins player has had to bide his time with some appearances off the bench.
The challenge is considerable in hitting the ground running without regular exposure at this level, but Lutton – who has played for England Students and also had spells playing in Australia and New Zealand before returning home – still feels that he has banked enough experience to deal with keeping Ulster's PRO12 campaign on the right track.
"The Italian teams are fairly similar in that they're really aggressive up front and it's always a very physical battle.
"I was watching the video of the first game at Zebre (which Ulster scraped through 19-11) and we've been working on and talking about our fringe defence," added Lutton.
"Momentum is very important and we want to keep up the momentum on the pitch.
"We've come out of the European games well but now we need to get a couple of wins in the Rabo (PRO12) to set us up in a good position in the table, which is where we want to be.
"Obviously the Zebre game is important but you look at those interprovincial games (Ulster next play Leinster and Munster over the festive period) and they are really exciting.
"Being from here you're brought up with these games and you want to play your very best in these games which are ones you really want to win," he says.