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Sport Ulster's Robert Baloucoune: I'm laid back but I'm also eager to kick on with club and country

06:50  04 december  2021
06:50  04 december  2021 Source:   belfastlive.co.uk

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Ulster winger Robert Baloucoune says his “laid back” demeanour shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of drive or desire to make the most of his rugby career.

The easy-going Fermanagh man, who burst on the scene in 2018, won his second Ireland cap in last month’s 53-7 mauling of Argentina at the Aviva.

It has been a dizzying rise so far for the 24-year-old, who made a try-scoring international debut against the USA in July, and he’s eager to add to his reputation in the coming months.

“I am laid back and I do kind of stroll,” said Baloucoune ahead of Saturday afternoon's United Rugby Championship showdown with the Ospreys in Swansea (3pm).

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“But I still need that determination to get through those small extras and bits and pieces which all add up.

“I don’t think you get to where you are without doing that. People can have their say on whether you do extras or whatever, but ultimately it’s down to me and what I do.

“You always need a goal and I have goals and I talk to the coaches about them. I spoke to Faz (Ireland head coach Andy Farrell) and Mike Catt on what I need to focus on as a player.

“It’s important that I’m improving on my one-on-ones and kicking on the run, so I work on that. You need to be good at everything.”

On being handed a surprise start against the Pumas in Dublin, Baloucoune said: “The team looked pretty settled, so it was a bit of a shock and I was pretty nervous, I’m not going to lie.

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“Obviously I’d played there before, but maybe because the stadium was full, I was a wee bit nervous. But once I was on the pitch, it was just like any other rugby game and I settled into it.”

Baloucoune, who has played in only two of Ulster’s six URC games so far this season, mainly because of injury, watched on as Ulster beat Leinster at the RDS last weekend.

Robert Baloucoune scored a try in his Ireland debut against the USA © INPHO/Ryan Byrne Robert Baloucoune scored a try in his Ireland debut against the USA

It was a statement win, but the pacy 24-year-old says Dan McFarland’s men have to “back it up” in Wales.

“If we put in a performance like that it kind of shows, not only us but everyone else, that we are a threat, but we need to push forward now,” he said.

Fellow winger Craig Gilroy is named on the bench and will join an exclusive club if he comes on to win his 200th cap.

Only seven other Ulster players - former captain Rory Best, Andrew Trimble, Roger Wilson, Darren Cave, Rob Herring, Robbie Diack and Paul Marshall - have reached the 200 milestone.

Jack McGrath, back from a hip injury, is also set to feature for the first time in a year after being named as one of the replacements.

ULSTER: Lowry, Baloucoune, Curtis, McCloskey, McIlroy, Burns, Cooney; O’Sullivan, Roberts, O’Toole, Treadwell, O’Connor, Reidy, Timoney, McCann.

REPLACEMENTS: Stewart, McGrath, Moore, Kearney, Rea, Doak, Moore, Gilroy.

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