It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Ulster development player Clive Ross, who made his second and third appearances for the province against Leicester Tigers and Toulon in the back-to-back European games.
Having originally joined Ulster for a trial period during the summer, it was something of a shock for back rower Clive Ross to be competing at breakdowns last weekend with the likes of Juan Smith, Chris Masoe and Steffon Armitage.
“It was a big surprise, but a very welcome one,” explained the 25-year-old. “It was a great experience for me even though the results in both games were disappointing.
“Playing against some of the older guys in the Toulon team was a bit surreal – I grew up watching them and they’ve been playing a high level of rugby for such a long time. But you very quickly realise you’re into a game of rugby and you forget about the big names.”
Clive, a cousin of Leinster and Ireland prop Mike Ross, began playing rugby while at school at Midleton College. Upon moving to Dublin to study at UCD, he joined De La Salle Palmerston for a four-year spell, during which he had an unsuccessful trial with Newcastle Falcons.
He then moved to Lansdowne for two seasons as he looked to finally make the breakthrough to professional rugby.
“The first year I joined Lansdowne we won the Ulster Bank League title. Mike Ruddock (the former Wales senior and Ireland Under-20 coach) and Emmet Farrell (current Leinster video analyst) were the coaches and I made it clear to them that I had ambitions to go on and play professionally.
“They were big influences on me and were constantly giving me additional advice outside of our training sessions, and it’s paid off with me getting this chance with Ulster,” said the Cork native.
Now, having got three run-outs for Ulster, Ross has reassessed his personal goals. “Obviously I’ve got a few appearances but I haven’t actually got that many minutes. Even the start I got against Zebre was cut short when we got the red card early on.
“The aim for me now is to get as much game-time as I can, learn what I can and start to put pressure on the guys who are starting in the back row at the moment. Also, I’m on development contract at the moment so I’m trying to impress the management staff to earn a full-time professional contact.”
With two consecutive defeats, Ross says the Ulstermen are primed to hit back against the Newport Gwent Dragons this weekend as they attempt to avoid a third straight loss.
“Our domestic form has generally been good but Europe has been disappointing and we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. We have to show a response this weekend, especially for the supporters.
“They were great again on Saturday against Toulon, even in the latter stages when the game had moved away from us a bit, they were still very vocal. That’s one thing I’ve noticed – the supporters are great, but we need to get back to winning ways in order to repay their faith.”