Michael Allen is one of a crop of young players looking to impress coach Mark Anscombe during pre season.
Allen was part of two Schools’ Cup winning sides at Methody before joining the Ulster Academy in 2009.
He’s continued his rugby development with the Ravens, his club side Belfast Harlequins and is hoping a big performance at Ravenhill against the Leicester Tigers can put him in the shop window to add to his one senior competitive cap for the province.
“I’m looking forward to the new season and it’s an opportunity for me with the new coach coming in to try and improve on my game and show him what I’ve got and hopefully get an opportunity,” said Allen.
“The personnel we have in the team is enormous and we have a lot of world class players and you could play a whole international team for Ulster, for someone like me that has just come into the squad it is a real incentive and boost that if I train hard and play well I could get an opportunity and when I’m on the pitch I want to try and do everything I can.”
“I just have to try and work hard and everything that I do I need to improve on, I need to get into the video room and look at all my games and every bit of involvement I have in them and try to improve every day.”
“Mark has drilled into us that our extras are on us, after a training session we can go and do any extras we want and it’s up to us to try and improve ourselves without the coaches being on our backs about it.”
Allen is open and honest about the aspects of his game that he feels he needs to improve on.
“Personally I think my passing needs to improve, it’s sometimes erratic, the majority of the time it could get to the mark but it could be all over the place but I have worked really hard on that.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of static passing and passing on the run, every bit of your game you need to improve on, defence and play recognition especially if I’m playing at 13.”
“if I study teams and improve on my play recognition it will be easier for me to defend.”
Allen is hoping to emulate his old school pals Paddy Jackson and Craig Gilroy and appear in a Heineken Cup final for Ulster.
“It was brilliant, I grew up with the two boys in the school at Methody and played with them, I am delighted with where they have got as they both work extremely hard.
“I want to be at their level and I want to be playing with them, I want to be in a Heineken Cup final and I want to work for that and my goal is to try and make my way onto the team.”
p Tickets for Saturday’s friendly, which has a 2.30pm kick-off, are available from Ulster Rugby.