Full-back Ricky Andrew is enjoying a sustained run in the Ulster starting line-up after having to wait 11 months between his first and second appearance.
“I made my first start against Edinburgh this season. My debut was at the RDS last season, but I only got on for a couple of minutes, so it didn’t really feel like a cap. This season has been a lot different,” said Andrew.
“I’ve been lucky in a lot of respects, we’ve had injuries to the likes of Jared Payne, Adam D’Arcy and (Peter) Nelson I have been able to benefit.”
“I’ve tried to enjoy it and I have to treat every game as if it could be my last. I’ve just been grateful for the opportunities that have come my way this season.”
Andrew got his first try for Ulster against Zebre last Friday and it proved to be a vital one.
“It didn’t really sink in until after the game when I spoke to friends and family, it was great to score the bonus point try,” he added.
“It was exciting and nice to score alongside a lot of the lads I’ve come up through the Academy with, it was nice I could share a special moment with them.”
His try aside Zebre was Andrew’s best display in an Ulster shirt and he admits it has taken him a while to settle in.
“Young guys need a few games to settle into things. It is difficult to go straight into a team like Ulster and impress in your first game, it is nigh on impossible.”
“It has been great to get the run of games I’ve got. I’ve been lucky to be able to settle in.”
Andrew is thriving as the last line of defence and isn’t feeling the pressure.
“It’s a positive thing for me, I don’t go into games worrying about what could go wrong. We understand mistake will be made by younger players but we have a lot of experience around us.
“The likes of Ruan, Paddy, Cavey, even Luke Marshall, have experience in the backs, so you feed off that, you have great players around you.
“We don’t go in with a worried attitude or feeling pressure, we are there to play. It’s what we do every week.”
Andrew has been just one of the players that has profited from Mark Anscombe putting his faith in youth.
“I’ve learned a lot from pre-season and in training when I’ve been with Jared and Tommy Bowe before his injury. I read somewhere Mark has played over 40 players in all competitions, that’s great as well because it shows we have the depth, and although Jared is miles ahead of me, I think we’ve shown the younger guys can come in and do a decent job.
“Doaky was my coach when I was with Ulster U19s, you always learn something new under Doaky and he is one of the best to work under.”
Andrew will start for Ulster in their top of the table clash against Glasgow on Friday night in one of a host of massive games coming up.
“They have a big squad and good depth, they have shown that in the Pro12 are sitting second after some great results. Last week they had a great result against the Dragons. We’ve gone through a lot of our season without some of our big games, we have been unlucky with injuries.
“Some guys have been out for most of the season, so it has been difficult, but at the same time the younger players have taken a lot from the experience.
“Personally, I have taken a lot from Jared in training, he has been a great help and those pointers have been a real benefit for the younger players coming through.”