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Robert Baloucoune has run into Ireland-Ulster dilemma

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Ulster’s Robert Baloucoune is waiting to find out if he will be at Ravenhill or Twickenham on Saturday.

Ulster’s Robert Baloucoune is waiting to find out if he will be at Ravenhill or Twickenham on Saturday.

©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Robert Baloucoune braves the elements during Ireland training yesterday

Robert Baloucoune braves the elements during Ireland training yesterday

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

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Ulster’s Robert Baloucoune is waiting to find out if he will be at Ravenhill or Twickenham on Saturday.

Six tries racked up over his last five games. Not bad at all really and especially so for a winger.

Actually, Robert Baloucoune probably might have had more but for that atrocious Sunday afternoon weather in Newport.

Scoring is hard currency for all those who occupy wing slots and when it doesn’t quite happen, you can understand a certain anxiety encroaching for players largely selected for their pace and sense of where the try line is to be found.

In that regard, the 24-year-old is probably quite relieved to be getting over the try line again after going five games – including his second cap against Argentina last November – earlier this season without touching the ball down.

 

But for all his scoring feats of late in an Ulster shirt, Baloucoune has not added another Test cap to his two appearances for Ireland and the odds look against him doing so again this weekend at Twickenham unless injuries open the door for another opportunity to show his already well established strength and pace.

Which means that unless Andy Farrell takes him as part of the travelling squad – extra personnel always make it on away trips – then Baloucoune will find himself back again with Ulster and ready for his first tilt at Leinster this season, the Enniskillen man having missed out on November’s victory at the RDS.

It’s all a bit of a dilemma really. Baloucoune badly wants to run out in south west London to get more of a feel and taste for Test rugby, never mind playing for the first time in the Six Nations, but also knows that he is needed back at Ulster while another strong showing can earn him more valuable game-time to further his growing reputation as a high quality finisher.

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Robert Baloucoune braves the elements during Ireland training yesterday

Robert Baloucoune braves the elements during Ireland training yesterday

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Robert Baloucoune braves the elements during Ireland training yesterday

Should he be released back to his province, Baloucoune will be looking to get the ball with a chance to run again just as was the case on two occasions last Friday when he trotted in for a brace of  tries in the big win over Cardiff.

“It’s always nice to get a bit of space to run in and I got my chances,” he explained.

“And it’s lovely just to get the ball in my hands and it’s just good to get running.

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While the bounce for his first was rather fortuitous – he, nevertheless, did extremely well to collect and dash to the line – his second try of the night was all about his power running with a little feint thrown in to fix the already flailing defence.

Indeed, a Baloucoune hat-trick was a distinct possibility though he was taken off which, as he explained, wasn’t so much an Ireland call rather than due to a tightening hamstring.

Though Ulster have forged themselves a reputation for set-piece accuracy through driving maul scores, they also like to move the ball to the edges when possible to release the searing pace of Baloucoune and whoever might be on the other wing whether that position is occupied by Ethan McIlroy, Craig Gilroy, Rob Lyttle or Ben Moxham.

“It’s a big focus in training,” Baloucoune explains of quick ball beind moved wide in order to carve out chances for the outside backs.

“We have our backline and we know what damage it can do from previous games,” he adds.

“And just being able to see that space and making use of it is a big part of our game.”

Baloucoune was also the senior member of last Friday’s back three, with Stewart Moore playing 15 for the first time and Ben Moxham on the the other wing, and this may well be the case again if he is to be found at Ravenhill on Saturday evening.

“I’m feeling pretty old as a 24-year-old but it’s always nice to give them a few words from my previous games and my experience,” said Baloucoune.

“That was Stewart’s first game at full-back and I thought he played unbelievably.”

Baloucoune was back in Ireland camp this week along with James Hume, Nick Timoney and Iain Henderson – who all played in the game against Cardiff – to join Rob Herring, Michael Lowry and Kieran Treadwell who were retained the previous week by Farrell.

However it pans out selection-wise for the England game, it is hard to escape the sense of frustration and missed opportunity that Baloucoune – who headed into the tournament as a player likely to get game-time – was not deployed against Italy and though he admits to being somewhat deflated, there is nothing else for it but to keep plugging away.

“It’s a bit disappointing I wasn’t involved (against Italy) but there’s not much you can do  but get back into the league and do as best as I can to put my name forward.

“I’ve got a few big  games coming up,” he says, presumably referring to URC clashes and next month’s double-headed last 16 meeting with Toulouse.

“So I’m just trying  to bring that form (shown against Cardiff) into each and every game.”

Just keep those tries coming. 


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