With a star studded back line Ricky Andrew knows he has to be patient when it comes to first team opportunities but the fullback will get a chance against Zebre on Friday night.
“There is always a team of international backs in front of me so it’s hard to get a game and whenever the chance comes I have to have a go at it,” said Andrew.
“I’m fortune to be learning of all these guys and I’m confident that I can play with them as well.
“I have to understand where I’m at. I’m a development player and I know the level of the boys ahead of me, you have international class players like Jared, Craig, Trimby and Tommy is a British Lion so you can’t expect to be in ahead of them but I think I can play my way to secure a spot just behind them.
“There is always an opportunity when those guys are away on international duty or there is injury hopefully I get the call up to play at full back.”
Andrew can play either fullback, wing or centre but he wants to nail a role down in the No15 shirt.
“I think I’m predominately a fullback, I do enjoy playing 13 and I have played quite a bit there this season for the Ravens and my club but I wouldn’t class myself as a 13,” he said.
“It’s good to be versatile I would love to have a go at 10 if I ever got the chance, I think full back is my full back at the moment.”
Andrew was pressed into action against Edinburgh early from the bench after injury to Michael and Allen and he had an impressive game.
“I was on a lot earlier than I thought and I was happy that things went well, they kicked a lot of ball to us and we were happy in the back three because we were able to run it back and that what we enjoy.”
“It was good to get on as early as I did.”
Sitting top of their Heineken Pool and in the Pro12 playoff spots Andrew admits morale is high in the camp.
“We always enjoy training, it’s a good bunch of lads and there are a lot of young lads in there that have come up through school either playing against or with each other.”
“Luke Marshall and I grew up together so it’s very enjoyable and the back three always have a good time having a laugh and that’s what it’s all about, I try to enjoy myself each time I go out and if I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t be there.
Having lost three of their nine games in the Pro12 Andrew knows there is no room for error or complacency against Zebre.
“There were a couple of games where we dropped off so every game is important, the Italian sides are very dogged and rough to play because they can bring a really physicality at the beginning as Treviso did last week, they came out and really give the boys a go.”
“This will be the fourth time I have played against Zebre, two of the games we barely scrapped a win so it’s always tough and they played really well the last time we played them a few weeks ago, it’s an important game we need to get four points if not push on for the five.”
“I think over there they played a good game, they didn’t kick too often to the back field, they looked after the ball well so hopefully they won’t do that on Friday I’d like them to kick a few to us.”
Andrew played for the Ravens last week and he scored a try and created another one for Ballymena team mate Adrian Hamilton.
“Paddy (Wallace) can create anything out of nothing and he certainly did that last week, I was just tagging the inside of him and he set me up, I’m not sure if it was a flat ball to Adrian but it was nice he got on the end of it, there was him and Matty Rea from Ballymena on the pitch and Matty is my housemate as well, they played well and it was good being out there again.
“It was tough enough against Ayr they are dogged and physical but ever game counts whether it’s for the seniors or the Ravens because it shows how you are playing.”
Ballymena’s representation on the Ravens is reflected by their success as they top Division 2A in the AIL and the Ulster Senior League.
“Results have been going well and there are some class player in there like Jamie Smith, Timmy Small and my young brother John who is in the Ulster Academy, I always enjoy going back and getting a game at 13 to change things up and hopefully they can get back to 1B.”
Andrew was 13 when Ballymena won the Ail Ireland League in 2003 and he has fond memories.
“You always looked up to Paddy Wallace especially with his peroxide blood hair standing in the back field and that’s the way Luke (Marshall) has had his hair since that,” joke Andrew.
“We always enjoyed going to Ballymena and watching a few games and me and Lukey would spend hours training after school and those are probably the best days of your life.”
“We came through primary school together and played football and rugby together and it is good that were still hanging about and getting on after all these years.”
Andrew when from watching Wallace at Eaton Park to playing with him at Ulster.
“It could be intimidating at the beginning, the first few pre seasons you thinking I hope I don’t do anything wrong or these boys will think I’m useless but that’s all part of it and you have to take your confident from what you learn from those guys, I’ve taken a lot from those guys over the past years and it has definitely helped me.”