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Young gun Luke ruled out of North America tour

By Niall Crozier

Rabodirect PRO12 Young Player of the Year Luke Marshall will not be involved in Ireland's two-date tour next month.

Ireland – under the tutelage of Les Kiss and minus the nine players who will be in Australia as members of Warren Gatland's Lions party – face the United States and Canada on June 8 and June 15 respectively.

But Marshall will play no part after suffering concussion in three successive matches.

After collecting his award in Dublin on Sunday, the 22-year-old told the Belfast Telegraph: "I don't think the medics are too worried. Obviously they wouldn't want me to be getting another couple of bangs for a while, but I think it's just precautionary.

"I haven't had any headaches or dizziness and my balance is alright so that's all good.

"While every Ireland game is important, some are more important than others and I think they reckoned it wouldn't be the end of the world if I missed these couple at the end of the season.

"I'm 22, a young guy, so maybe a couple more knocks on the head so soon after the ones I've just had could lead to problems. Basically I've been told to take the summer out and then come back for the start of next season.

"I talked to Paddy Wallace and he had a similar situation a while back – a few knocks on the head – but he was in a worse position because he had dizziness and what not.

"He told me that he took 10 weeks off. When he came back he was at full fitness and look at the player he went on to become.

"So that's where I am – taking time out so that I can recover fully and come back in good shape rather than rushing things too quickly."

As for the Young Player of the Year title, he admitted: "I didn't even know I was up for the award. I thought I was coming down here just to make up the numbers. It's nice after getting bad news about not being able to play for the rest of the season.

"It's pretty cool, I suppose. I wasn't expecting it at all. I thought it was going to be Robbie Henshaw. So it's nice, it's good encouragement.

"I suppose it gives you confidence as a player, too, that somebody rates you. Hopefully I can take that on next season and transfer it onto the pitch."

It really has been a remarkable season for the former Ballymena Academy out-half who found himself having to switch to inside-centre in deference to Paddy Jackson's emergence as an Ulster 10.

Wallace's serious knee injury opened the door and the robust midfielder stormed through it, helping himself to three full international caps against Scotland, France and Italy en route before lining out in Ulster's Heineken Cup quarter-final date with Saracens at Twickenham, the occasion on which he suffered concussion number three in as many matches.

"It's been pretty surreal," he said. "I had my aims at the start of the season and I think I've surpassed what I was hoping to do. Hopefully I can get back next season and keep up that good form.

"But I think I'm going to have a fight on my hands for the 12 shirt with Stuarty (Olding) and the old man (Wallace) if he comes back fighting and Chris (Farrell)."

And he admitted that in recent weeks there have been moments when watching Ulster in action has reminded him of just hard he is going to have to fight if he is to regain his place.

"At the start of the season I was looking at maybe trying to displace Paddy and after a couple of Six Nations games I was thinking I was maybe half-way to doing that," he said.

"But now Stuarty has come into the team and he's probably been the stand-out 12 in the British Isles in the past couple of weeks.

"He has been exceptional so that's definitely another one to fight against for the 12 shirt next season."

Belfast Telegraph


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