Every so often, Robert Baloucoune would shift uncomfortably in his chair as another media query came his way.
You sensed that he would far rather be somewhere else, whether running lines on the training field or leaving defenders clutching air when it comes to the real thing.
Yes, but you had to feel for the Enniskillen man.
Only just back in the side after suffering a shoulder injury at Clermont in early December, he had made a stirring comeback at Northampton Saints but now found himself having to heavily revisit only his fourth game for Ulster this season while also dealing with the extra baggage being thrown at him by a hungry press corps, regarding an Ireland call-up for the Six Nations.
One game and all this happens. The 24-year-old kept mentioning that though things went well at Saints — a try and involvement in three more — he is still only playing his way back in.
It hardly mattered. Baloucoune’s pace, power and skills-set do set him apart.
Andy Farrell has already invested in what the winger can offer and Baloucoune had been around national camps before being handed his debut last summer when he memorably torched the USA’s defence for a wondrous score.
Things were quieter for his second cap against Argentina last November, but now a first Six Nations beckons and another opportunity could be winging its way in his direction.
For all the notions of him being rather laid-back and really not enjoying the spotlight, Baloucoune is driven and determined to better himself towards playing at the very highest level.
“More exposure in the Six Nations would be great,” he admitted. “Hopefully that performance (against Saints) will put me in a good place.
“It’s a difficult situation to be in because it’s hard when I haven’t been involved in games during the season.
“I suppose it’s similar to the last (Ireland) camp, I hadn’t played too many games and was quite surprised to get selected,” added the player who was set to attend Nottingham University before Ulster came calling with an Academy place.
He is also already familiar with how injuries can change everything — a ravaged hamstring picked up pre-season in August 2020 applied a hefty brake to his progress — bringing with them the lengthy and uneven road which is rehab.
At Franklin’s Gardens he badly wanted the ball in his hands early and got that feel of it even before smashing over for a sixth-minute score.
“Just taking that first contact, having been out with my shoulder, was fine and I got back up,” he said. “Getting a try? I had an opportunity in the corner and took it. I haven’t scored in a while so it was nice to get that.”
Some more of the same would do very nicely tomorrow when Clermont Auvergne are at the Kingspan. Ulster are already in the round of 16 in the Champions Cup but ideally want the result for purposes of seeding.
As such, Ulster will be hunting down a fourth win from four group games.
“It’s all to play for this weekend,” Baloucoune explained. “Dan (McFarland) has made that pretty clear in training this week.
“It’s a home game at Kingspan so we’ll be raring to go.”
Should he get through tomorrow evening unscathed, the focus will switch to Ireland camp where seven other Ulster players will be in attendance along with Baloucoune who, as it stands, is probably the most likely one to be thrown a start against Wales in just over a fortnight’s time.
This will be Michael Lowry’s first fully-fledged involvement in the national squad — he was called up for training cover last summer — and should he and Baloucoune end up playing together there will at least be some chemistry there, as was seen with the way they dovetailed for Ulster last Sunday.
“I’ve played with Mikey for several years but I think it’s all down to training,” he reckoned.
“But it’s hard to judge Mikey because he steps everyone so you don’t know where he’s going to go, so it’s probably easier for him to be there for an offload from me.
“But you get a feel for it in the game.
“We talk a lot about chatting on the move and his ability to call his position and say he’s on my shoulder really helps.”
Naturally, the talk continues about the Six Nations which Baloucoune admits he only really started to watch in recent years.
“It’s an honour to be a part of it,” he said.
The next stage of his career is beckoning.