As Ulster enter the fifth week of pre-season, new coach Mark Anscombe says the players are training hard as he looks to develop the fundamentals.
The majority of the squad have already completed four weeks of pre-season, while the International stars at senior and U20 level will be integrated into sessions this week. Anscombe admits it hasn’t been ideal preparation: “It’s a little bit frustrating in that it is a jagged start for so many players but it will be nice having close to our full contingent of the squad together this week. With injuries and operations we’ve still got a few players not here.”
The former New Zealand U20s coach is happy with how the players are reacting in training: “We are getting our patterns in place, working on the fundamentals and developing things that I think we need to do more effectively. We are trying to develop the players bit by bit without making it a total overload of information. We’re getting there, the players have been working hard for the past four weeks and I’ve been pleased with their progress. The players seem to be picking it up easily enough at the minute, we’re looking at keeping it simple to start with and build as a group.”
He continued: “Guys like Callum Black, Paddy McAllister, Adam Macklin, John Burns and Niall Annett are all training well, Ali Birch and Robbie Diack have too. These guys are here every day and enjoying the work at the moment. They’ve shown a good attitude; how they transfer that into playing will be the important thing. The U20s are back this week so it will give us a chance to look at Iain Henderson, Peter Nelson, Chris Farrell, Stuart Olding and see what we’ve got. The likes of Paddy (Wallace), Stephen (Ferris) and Tom (Court) have all had operations so we’ve got to be careful with how we ease them back into training.”
With Allen Clarke, Brian McLaughlin and Gary Longwell now all working alongside each other in the Academy, Anscombe believes the senior side will see the benefits. “The Academy programme is going to be vital for the future and that’s something we’ve got to get right. We’ve got four or five young players who went away with Ireland U20s and did well and so they’ll be coming back and training with us and progressing. Each year if we can produce a good number of players for the U20s and they do well, we’re going to end up with a good nucleus of local players playing first team football.”
“We’ve got to give opportunities and keep developing youth, because as players get older we’ve got to keep bringing players through to replace them. We’ve got to be in a position where in a difficult time of the year when we have injuries and are without the Internationals, we will be able to field a reasonably competitive team,” he concluded.
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