Paddy Wallace took his chance with both hands when he replaced the injured Luke Fitzgerald in the Ireland team to take on the All Blacks in June. After making his first Test start, Wallace held onto the number 12 jersey for the subsequent clash with Australia and he will be doing his utmost to keep it throughout the current season.
Paddy Wallace had a summer to remember, taking his Ireland caps tally to 10 and scoring a Test try against the All Blacks.
Unfortunately, his start to this season has been curtailed by an injury to his right hamstring which has forced him to miss Ulster’s last three matches.
The Belfast man was back training with the Ulster squad on Tuesday and could yet force his way into the province’s team for Saturday’s Heineken Cup opener against French heavyweight Stade Francais.
He has been named in Matt Williams’ 25-man panel for that game and could slot in at centre or out-half, depending on Ulster’s approach.
Known for his versatility, Wallace spoke this week of his role, in recent seasons, as Ireland’s back-up out-half behind Ronan O’Gara and how he now feels better equipped to be an international centre.
“Ronan is heads and shoulders ahead of anyone else in the out-half position in Ireland, so the likelihood of me getting meaningful game-time there is pretty small,” he told the News Letter.
“I just want to get an opportunity in the centre and I have been able to mix it with 10.
“I enjoyed playing there (in the centre) and I want to play as much as I can for Ireland so that gives me the best possibility to do that.
“That is what I am concentrating on and hopefully I will get a chance to play in the centre leading up to the autumn Test series. But for now it is about doing it for Ulster.
“The centre position suits my ability and I have worked hard on the additional requirements for the role, such as physique.”
Commenting on the hamstring knock he sustained against the Cardiff Blues last month, the 28-year-old was mindful of not rushing back and damaging the leg further.
“I cannot speak for the management, but I know I have never had a hamstring problem before. But it is the sort of injury that if you go back too soon you can do a lot of damage.
“If it was not 100 percent, then I could have come back too early and if it happened again I could have been out for longer. It was important to manage the situation.
“I certainly hope to be involved (against Stade). It is a big match, it is the European Cup and everyone in the squad wants to be a part of it.
“There will be some disappointment if they are not. But that is the way it is in a squad like this.
“The Heineken Cup always brings extra excitement and it is always great to be able to play a team we don’t play against that often.”
Wallace feels that despite their poor recent form, Ulster can lift themselves to beat Stade, who are currently top of the French Championship standings with seven straight wins.
But Stade have lost on all of their previous four visits to Ravenhill and Williams’ charges are certainly due a big game. So too is Wallace.