NEW ULSTER HEAD coach Mark Anscombe will be pleased to finally have a full squad under one roof this week.
The Kiwi has overseen training with the Heineken Cup runners-up for a month and has been impressed with the effort put in by many players.
However, the former Auckland Blues boss also expressed frustration at the disjointed nature of the build-up to the new season with not only his senior Irish internationals, but also the under 20 stars, reporting back for duty late.
“It’s a little bit frustrating in that it is a jagged start for so many players but it will be nice having close to our full contingent of the squad together this week. With injuries and operations we’ve still got a few players not here.”
Among those present and fit, Anscombe held special praise for Callum Black, Paddy McAllister, Adam Macklin, John Burns, Niall Annett, Ali Birch and Robbie Diack; telling UlsterRugby.com:
“These guys are here every day and enjoying the work at the moment. They’ve shown a good attitude; how they transfer that into playing will be the important thing.”
Anscombe, whose son Gareth plays fly-half with the Blues, signalled that he would not rush a return from surgery for Stephen Ferris, Tom Court or Paddy Wallace and once again highlighted the importance of Ulster’s academy as a long-term part of his project with the northern province:
“We’ve got to give opportunities and keep developing youth, because as players get older we’ve got to keep bringing players through to replace them.” He said.
“We’ve got to be in a position where in a difficult time of the year when we have injuries and are without the Internationals we will be able to field a reasonably competitive team.”