Ian Nagle: Looking forward to getting a run of games with Ulster
At a time when Ulster are shy in the second row department the sight of a fully fit Ian Nagle getting in the faces of some of his former team mates at Munster was a welcoming sight.
Nagle, who had started his professional career with Munster before a switch to Leinster, has now moved North on a loan-deal.
He was drafted in after both Pete Browne and Jean Deysel were forced to retire prematurely.
Now with Iain Henderson out for up to three months and Matty Rea on a similar recovery period after both underwent different thumb operations and on further dispensation from the IRFU, Nagle’s return to fitness last week was timely.
He had been on the bench for two previous games, but was forced to miss the European Champions Cup double wins over Scarlets.
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Nagle admitted making his Ulster starting debut against Munster, and winning, was in some ways, bitter sweet.
Nagle said: “ I was glad to get 80 minutes under the belt.
“ It’s always a bit strange to face Munster, like fighting your brother or something like that.
“I’ve such fond memories of my time in Munster that, definitely it might sound strange, but I want to play well to show respect to an extent.
“It’s great to get a victory against Munster because Ulster’s my club now and I want to contribute everything I can to the club that I’m with.
“At the same time, I’ll always be a Munster fan at heart. So it is mixed emotions.”
Nagle insists he has settled in quickly and enjoying being involved with Ulster
“A very easy transition. I’m really taken aback by how good the facilities are, the attention to detail from the coaches, how young the squad is - I probably wasn’t aware of that before I came up.
“There’s a really good sense of excitement in the group and it’s good to be part of that.”
Reflecting on his arrival and the injury in his first outing, Nagle said: “It was a funny one because it happened quite early in the game. It was a rib injury, so one of those where structurally everything’s fine but it’s a pain management thing.
“For the two weeks I was optimistic, but as soon as I started training it just didn’t feel right. Even tonight, it felt really good.
“It’s disappointing because the boys got two great wins and it would have been nice to have been a part of that.”
In terms of fitting in, Nagle believes it is much of a muchness wherever you play, particularly with the Provinces.
“I suppose a lot of teams are playing fairly similarly these days. In terms of style of play, it’s not a huge jump for what we were doing at Leinster, just different terminology,” said Nagle
“The line-out calls are the most difficult part of it and just getting used to players and different combinations.
“It comes to you fairly quick actually, or at least I hope it does,” laughed Nagle.
The absence of British Lion Henderson is a big loss for Ulster over the next few weeks, but also for Ireland as he is set to miss the Six Nations Championship defence.
His impact at the lineout is regarded as crucial for both club and country.
Nagle said: “ I suppose there were one or two lineouts we will be disappointed with.
“But our maul is building quite nicely. The last two weeks against Scarlets we maybe weren’t sure whether our maul was strong or was it the Scarlets let us get a bit of an edge?
“Munster is probably a good (indication) of where you’re at.
“Our intensity is really good, but I think we need to match that a little bit with some of the detail that might have been off against Munster.”
Ulster now face their second Irish derby of three over the festive period in the PRO14 with Connacht up this weekend in Galway before another away game with Leinster on January 5.
“Connacht will be a huge one now,” insisted Nagle.
“ I think these inter-pros are a really important block. Like Dan (McFarland) said during the week, you look after your own house first and facing the other provinces is important for lads competing for national honours.
“Everyone’s so close and the lads know each other from camp, but you wan the respect of the people closest to you. You only ever get that by trying to beat teams.”