Will Addison reveals excitement that drove his move to Ulster Rugby
Just as Ulster lost one utility back, they've gained another.
With the announcement that Jared Payne would, as expected, retire from the game at the end of last season and take up a coaching role, the province lost a key player.
But it didn’t take long to find his replacement in the form of 25-year-old English-born Irish-qualified Will Addison.
Qualified for Ireland through his mother, Addison arrives from Sale Sharks in similar circumstances as Payne did — eager to represent Ireland with the ability to play nearly anywhere across the back line.
Equally adept at centre, wing or full back, Addison will plug gaps left in Ulster’s back line by the departure of Charles Piutau and the retirements of Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe, while injuries to Luke Marshall and Louis Ludik have made his arrival even more welcome.
And he hasn’t wasted any time getting settled in by learning the ropes from the best man for the job: his predecessor.
“I’ve made a connection with JP which I need to have because he covered a fair few positions when he was playing, and he’ll be someone I’ll be picking the brains of,” Addison said.
“I’m really lucky to have a coach like Jared who has played every single one of those positions to the highest level.
“He’s a good bloke, he even invited me round to his house for a couple of beers in pre-season so it’s nice to know your coaches on a personal basis so you want to work for them as well.”
Addison is also familiar with another member of the coaching staff having played alongside Dwayne Peel while with Sale, and it was on his recommendation that the 25-year-old made the switch from the Premiership to the Guinness PRO14.
But the big question is why now? Why would he leave Sale, a club he’d been at for eight years, was a regular in the starting lineup and was club captain of?
“I think it was an exciting time (to move),” he admitted. “I chatted to Peeley back in April, and I had a clause in my contract that if an Irish team came calling then I’d the option to leave Sale.
“But talking to Peeley about the group we have here at Ulster, and the transition being made over the summer with a lot of really great senior players leaving, new coaching group, it felt like an exciting time I couldn’t miss out on.
“I felt if I left it a bit later then maybe I’d miss the boat, so it felt like the right time for me, a fresh clean slate here fits in with my timeline.”
There’s been no rest for the former England Under-20s star who, since arriving in Belfast, has been down to work in training, with the first pre-season match against Gloucester on August 18 now on the horizon.
For Addison, however, it’s how he wants it to be as he looks to endear himself to his new supporters, and so far it’s paying off.
“For me, I wouldn’t say I got too comfortable at Sale but you can get into your comfort zone at times when you’ve been there nigh on 10 years,” he said.
“This is coming into an environment and just saying yes to everything, really pushing myself from the off, and I’ve really enjoyed what we’ve been doing in the conditioning side of things and I’m feeling stronger, faster, fitter than I have done before.
“I’m learning every day off the coaching. I’ve thrown myself into everything and I’m feeling the dividends now and hopefully on the first day of the season too.”