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Clarke: Result Will Inspire Ulster Academy And Senior Players

Clarke: Result Will Inspire Ulster Academy And Senior Players

Everyone involved with Ulster Rugby celebrated the team’s win over Munster at Thomond Park over the weekend, but one person had perhaps more reason to celebrate than most.

Elite Performance Development Manager Allen Clarke is head of the Hughes Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy and is tasked with developing the next generation of Ulster players.

Last Saturday night he watched as six of his young Academy players took to the pitch, in one of the most intimidating rugby venues in Europe, and played brilliantly in the 19-17 RaboDirect PRO12 victory.

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“A result like that lets them know that all the hard work is worth it. Overall it will give them a lot of motivation. They have had a taste for it – a winning taste,” explained Clarke.

“It may not have been the greatest spectacle of rugby, but they showed resilience and they had to battle hard against a very experienced Munster side. Not only will it motivate our Academy, it gives our senior players inspiration as well.”

Centre Stuart McCloskey, winger Rory Scholes and prop Andrew Warwick all started the match, with scrum half David Shanahan, back rower Conor Joyce and front rower Kyle McCall all coming on.

Clarke continued: “All of them stood up and did what they had to do and were hugely effective. I thought that the senior players gave them excellent support and excellent encouragement throughout the week and that ensured that they felt comfortable and were able to trust themselves and perform on the night.

“What the game shows is that we have quality young men coming through who can blend in well with the team.

“When their backs are against the wall, they can stand up, show resilience, show fight and they will work hard for each other.”

While Clarke is reluctant to pick out any one individual, he was keen to agree with Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe’s view that Andrew Warwick has a big future in the game.

“Andrew epitomises everything that the Hughes Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy is about. You want people to work hard and to be professional about their business and he has done that throughout the year.

“He has travelled 35 miles every morning to be at Academy sessions, then done a day’s work with his father, then come back in for further sessions.

“The beauty about Andrew is that he is not the exception, he is an example of what the standards are within the Academy.”