PRO14 RUGBY: Ulster’s Johnny McPhillips happy to go about his business

Ulster outhalf Johnny McPhillips
Ulster outhalf Johnny McPhillips

The saga around a new outhalf at Ulster remains unresolved after Joe Carbery agreed a switch to Munster from Leinster this week.

It is yet to be revealed if that move will result in Ulster ending up with one of the new ‘in excess’ fly halves at Munster or if they will get the IRFU blessing of signing an overseas player.

Irrespective, the young man who has worn the number 10 jersey for Ulster as the season drew to a close, Johnny McPhillips, remains unconcerned by all that is going on.

The Ireland Under-20 international, who moved across from England, to join the Ulster Academy, has filled the boots at 10 as well as he can.

He does not have any major competition to concern himself at the moment, with the relatively lesser inexperienced Angus Curtis and James Lowry - but that also leaves the Province with limitations in the pivotal role.

The IRFU had already blocked a potential move for Ulster to sign South African Elton Jantjes - although that may only have papered over the cracks given he was still going to be part of the Springboks National side.

In the interim, McPhillips will check in for pre-season training in July ready for whatever comes up.

“The season is over so as far as I am aware it is head down and put as much graft into pre-season as I can,” said McPhillips.

“Whoever comes or does not come, it does not change anything for me.

“I have still got to go in, become a better player and fight for my spot with the other players who are in there.”

McPhillips believes he has garnered much experience in the closing couple of months of the season when he was in the front line.

“Massively so, I think especially what was the most important was learning from those two loses in terms of Scarlets and Cardiff away.

“Going away from home playing in those tough games without some of the internationals.

“And the amount I have learned from then on in has been massive.

It was nice to get a few home games and play in front of the home fans which was really good,” he added.

Being thrust into that front line was not something McPhillips had contemplated happening so quickly.

“I think it was just sort of is there ever a perfect time you are going to be ready?” smiled McPhillips.

“An opportunity presented itself and I had it my head to just take it week at a time and seize each week as I could and put in a good performance at the weekend.

“Obviously there were a couple of up and down weekends, but it has been massive and I have great support from the lads around me.

“The team and the management and they have really backed me and that has been something which has filled me with confidence.”

“The more you become sort of familiar and comfortable in that sort of environment which is the top tier playing with the Irish captain, British and Irish Lions, you are playing with those guys you can get comfortable and implement your own authority and contributions to the team and the game at present.

“I think the more time I spent in the driving seat at 10, especially when you are young it is invaluable.

“I think it sort of showed in the games towards the tail-end of the season, the more comfortable you were in the position and be more confident,” he added.

Whatever happens around the push for an experienced outhalf at Ulster, McPhillips will expect to have a big role to play next season.