Dan Soper’s Six Nations hope for Ulster pair Michael Lowry and James Hume

Dan Soper believes that Ulster duo Michael Lowry and James Hume are ready to answer Ireland’s call in the Six Nations if selected by Andy Farrell for this weekend’s championship opener against Wales in Dublin.

Full back Lowry and centre Hume have been instrumental in Ulster winning all four pool games in Europe this season and mounting a challenge in the United Rugby Championship.

Ulster attack coach Soper knows the pair well as they were part of his RBAI team that won three consecutive Schools’ Cup honours between 2015 and 2017.

“I’m probably biased, I’d love to see them get an opportunity this weekend, it’d be class,” enthused Soper. “Did I see it when they were kids at school?

Ulster coach Dan Soper. Pic by Dickson Digital.

“They’ve always stood out as a wee bit ahead of the pack.

“They’ve always had that aspiration in the back of the mind and I suppose I have too...that they’d get that chance.

“There’s no doubt to get to the level they’ve got to and even still to play Ulster Schools and Irish Schools you need to have that bit of raw talent.

“But that alone doesn’t get you into an international rugby squad, the great thing is the two of them are really coachable and they want to learn, as do a lot of guys in the squad.

“Michael and James have always had that and certainly they have matured into great young men with great potential that we’re starting to see at the top level.”

Another young back starting to progress is Angus Curtis, his game time in a white shirt has been curtailed by injury but he has started the last two fixtures and was among the try scores in Friday night’s bonus point win over the Scarlets.

Curtis’ father David played for Ireland at the 1991 World Cup.

“I’ve spoken to Angus about his Dad playing but I’m not aware of it, I probably wasn’t as big an Irish rugby fan back then as I am now,” admitted Soper. “Angus has done brilliantly, it’s exactly the kind of thing you want to see at this time of year when someone like Angus gets an opportunity to get a run of games in the team that they perform really well and you start to see the potential they’ve shown in training out here on Friday night.

“We’re really pleased how Angus and a lot of the other boys have gone.”

Ulster face Connacht at Kingspan Stadium on Friday night in a rearranged game from Boxing Day.

Connacht convincingly beat Ulster 36-11 when the sides met earlier in the season at the Aviva Stadium. Since that night in Dublin, Ulster have won seven of their nine games.

“Connacht did us a favour in that game because they exposed a few things we needed to address,” said Soper. “We’ve tried to do that and in many ways we have, we’ve had a good run of results and we’re pleased with how we are progressing as a team.

“We also know that all that counts for nothing into an inter-provincial derby with Connacht, who we have had some really tough battles with in the last few years.

“It’s nice to have the confidence of form but the last time we played it was exactly the same, we came in off the back of four wins and they had lost at home to the Dragons.

“Connacht are a really difficult team to beat at the best of times but they’ll be really disappointed with what happened at the weekend...beware the wounded Connacht team, I’d say.

“Scrum half John Cooney and Stuart McCloskey are doubtful to make the Connacht game.”

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