Rory Scholes put himself in the Ulster management’s mind with a string of fine performances for Ireland at the U20 World Cup in France last summer including two tries in a group game against Fiji.
He featured for Ulster in their pre-season win over Leinster at Ravenhill and just when he looked set to make a breakthrough he suffered an injury.
After two appearances from the bench against the Ospreys and Treviso, Scholes will make his run on debut at home to the Dragons.
Scholes said: “I thought I played well at the world cup and I was happy with how my campaign went.
“I came back looking to get things on. I got 40 minutes in a pre-season friendly then I was out for five months it was frustrating but there wasn’t very much I could do about it.
“I just did my rehab and got back as fast as I could and I’ve just been fired into things, but I wouldn’t have it any other way and I’m enjoying myself up in the seniors.
“I damaged my hip joint then my tendons and cartridge all flared up and damaged so it was just rest and it took about five months.”
It was a long road back and he did get on the field in January.
Scholes said: “My first game back was for the Ravens against the Cornish Pirates, I played 80 minutes in that game.
“I then played for Harlequins in Athlone against Buccaneers. I played against UL Bohemians at home and then was called up into the senior squad.”
Scholes was pleased with his first game back for the Ravens against the Cornish Pirates.
“It was my first game back and I was just raring to get going and anytime I got the ball I was just trying to do something. I wasn’t over thinking or over playing I was just trying to do the basics, I was happy with how many times I got the ball, I wasn’t expecting to play 80 minutes but that’s the way it worked out with injuries and the body held up well.”
Scholes Ulster debut came against the Ospreys on a cold wet night and with the game hanging the balance.
“I wanted my cap, it was something I was aspiring to for a while, I was glad to get on when Mike Allen had to come off, I got five minutes, it got me into things and let me know the speed of the game so for the next couple of games I wasn’t nervous, it was good to get five minutes, I didn’t have much to do, I think I got my shirt dirty with one tackle.”
A Freudian slip in the commentary box earned the ginger winger a new nickname.
“As soon as I got back into the dressing room I was being told that I was being called Paul Scholes, sometimes I try to pass Paul off as my uncle for a joke, it was quite funny and some of the boys have being calling me Paul ever since.”
“I would say I’m not as aggressive as Paul the way he flies into tackles.”
Scholes was thrust into another high pressure game as Ulster scrapped a win in Treviso last Sunday.
“I was a bit warmer than we are used to and it was a bit of a change, the pitch was a bit heavy and it was about 13/14 degrees and there were flies everywhere.”
“The ball was dry which we’re not used to, I got on for 30 odd minutes and when I came on I just wanted to get my hands on the ball, I was glad to get more than five minutes.”
“I was involved in the lead up to the try just in the right hand corner and then after the kick off I had a break down the line so it wasn’t too bad for a first go.”
“We were happy to get four points away from home, for two tries was the only times we kept the ball and went through a lot of phases and playing good rugby but apart from that there were a lot of errors and a penalty here or there that was stopping our flow, we didn’t get into our patterns or phase play so if we sort those things out we’ll be good to go.”
“We have to focus on the Dragons and get another four points, they have been going very well and they are a good side and we just have to focus on that, we have a winning run at Ravenhill so we have to keep that going.”
Scholes wants to make the most of any opportunity he is given in the first team.
“Tommy is due to come back soon and there is a lot of competition for the wings, all I can focus on is just learning from the guys in training, train the best I can to see if I can get an opportunity to start or get a couple of minutes.”
“I’m new to all this training with the seniors so talking to them all I can do is learn from them and the coaches and if I get and opportunity all I can do is take it.”
Equally comfortable at full back or on the wing Scholes will play anywhere he is asked.
“These days you are classed as a back three player so you can play both wings or full back, I do like playing full back mostly I’m very comfortable on the wing and that is where most of my opportunities are coming.”
He admits the Pro12 is a higher standard that he is used to but his cameos from the bench has got him used to the pace of the game.
“There is a big step up it’s quick, the pace and contact is a lot more, you have to be on your toes you can’t switch off, you have to know the system and calls, it’s been a bit of a jump but the world cup is like that with the good weather and hard grounds and the game is very quick which helps with the seniors.”