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Strong desire driving 'A' team's British and Irish Cup bid, says Browne

 

By Michael Sadlier

He's the elder statesmen in terms of the Ulster 'A' age profile.

However, having only turned 30 last October, Pete Browne reckons there is quite a bit more in the tank for someone who earns his keep at lock or in the back-row.

Even so, Browne is a valuable asset for an 'A' side where the emphasis is on younger players cutting their teeth in the soon to depart British and Irish Cup, and it just so happens that he has played before at tomorrow's quarter-final opponents Bedford.

No better man then to have on board as Ulster 'A' go in search of upsetting the odds and booking a rare place in the competition's semi-finals.

Though he has crossed swords with Bedford before while at London Welsh, the Bristol-born player's initial visit to Goldington Road was in November 2015 when he togged out for Ulster 'A' during his first season at the Kingspan.

"That was actually my first 'A' team performance," said Browne, who has played 34 times for the senior team.

"And we lost there (27-18), which was interesting. But (tomorrow's quarter-final) is a good game to play in and I'm excited to be involved as one of the senior players.

"It's big for me. I haven't had a great season personally in terms of playing for the first team (he has made three appearances, with his last sighting in January's defeat at Leinster) which has been disappointing.

"But I've been able to throw my hat in (with the 'A' team) and build something. It has been really good for me personally to be part of this."

It all sounds very upbeat, which is refreshing compared to what is going on at Kingspan Stadium in these difficult times.

But Browne, whose father is from Belfast, isn't just talking things up for the sake of it. This is a game he wants to be seen in, a match which he feels is winnable, and the trophy is worth chasing.

"We want to win," Browne stated.

"That's why we're here. We've got a good enough team, we've got fantastic athletes within the team and good coaches.

"There shouldn't be anything stopping us from going there and putting on a performance."

Naturally, the former Harlequins and England Students player accepts that Ulster perhaps ought to have been able to secure a home quarter-final, but that is gone and now it's a case of just getting on with it.

As Browne explained: "We're happy enough to be going to Bedford and getting the opportunity to take on a team that is doing well in the English Championship.

"We can match ourselves against them, we've played teams from the Championship like Cornish Pirates who have big packs and we know what's coming.

"But they have players with lots of leadership and outside their pack they have players of quality like Lee Dickson (former England scrum-half)."

Head coach Kieran Campbell's game plan would appear to be predicated on playing a high-tempo and mobile game, which would certainly suit Browne's style.

"Not giving too much away, we need to move their pack around and play a good style, though we are also aware that they have a good backline," he said.

Getting regular game time with Ballynahinch, who are top of the All-Ireland League's Division 1B, is also a bonus when it comes to bringing a winning mentality to tomorrow's clash, as is hunger to succeed.

"We've got a lot of desire in the 'A' team, which is exciting," added Browne.

Now they just have to prove it.

Belfast Telegraph

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