Ulster's Michael Lowry switch 'good problem'

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Ulster backs coach Dan Soper has highlighted switching Mike Lowry to the wing as a chance for the province to get all their best players on the pitch in last weekend’s United Rugby Championship opener against Zebre.

Lowry played out half for Soper’s RBAI team that won three consecutive Schools’ Cup prizes but since switching to the professional ranks the once-capped-by-Ireland player has spent most of his time at full back.

With Will Addison returning from a two-year injury and Rob Baloucoune not travelling to Italy, Lowry started on the wing and bagged one of Ulster’s six tries in the bonus point victory at Zebre.

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“With Will coming back in you want to get your best players on the park, Mike has been an excellent player for us mostly at full back for the last couple of years,” said Soper. “There was a wee bit of how do we get them both in the team but that what probably steered us towards it.

Ulster coach Dan Soper. (Photo by John Dickson)Ulster coach Dan Soper. (Photo by John Dickson)
Ulster coach Dan Soper. (Photo by John Dickson)

“We started looking at the skillset Mikey brings to the team...he has the speed of a winger, he has the acceleration, he has the ability to finish and because he has such an energy and work-rate he will be on the wing at times but he will work off his wing to get himself involved in the game.

“I think when you even look at the World Cup, you look at Ireland and how Mack Hansen plays, you look at Darcy Graham, Cheslin Kolbe...guys that don’t stand on a wing and wait for the ball to come to them, they are off the wing and working and that is Mikey to a tee.

“He is not afraid of working hard and getting involved in the game, you’ll see him at full back again, there is no doubt about that, but if it means we can get all our best players on the park his ability to play on the wing is a good problem for us to have.”

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Ulster will play their first game on the new Kingspan Stadium pitch on Sunday evening.

“I’m looking forward to seeing those young athletes playing on it, we have trained on it for a couple of weeks,” said Soper. “It has been really fast, and it has been great, the guys seem to love it and we’ll see how Sunday goes but, at the minute, we are all excited and pretty optimistic about what it has to hold.

“The guys love playing at home.”

Soper added: “I think this weekend is quite a special weekend with it being the World Cup final, rugby is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, playing on a Sunday afternoon is a wee bit different as well.

"I think the guys will have a great excitement about turning up this weekend.

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“It is a great challenge and we are really looking forward to being at home, it has been a long time since we played here in front of our supporters.

“We all remember our last game here (URC quarter-final defeat to Connacht) was one that hurt us a lot and we’ll carry a wee bit of that hurt into the weekend as well.”