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McCall Determined To Bounce Back Against Oyonnax

McCall Determined To Bounce Back Against Oyonnax

Kyle McCall has just celebrated his 24th birthday, but the prop waited over two years for another chance in the Ulster senior jersey, and he has grabbed that opportunity with real enthusiasm.

“I’m just loving it, playing week in, week out, really enjoying the type of rugby this team are playing, it’s just great.” Kyle McCall admits to be slightly taken aback by a flurry of man-of-the-match accolades, insisting he is just doing his job helping to anchor the front row.

“Obviously I’m glad if the coaches are happy with what I’m doing, though I know there’s so much more work for me to do, and the support of the fans is fantastic, it does make you feel more at ease.

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“But there’s a job to be done for the team, and that has to be my priority – to do what I’m good at, to get around the park a bit, and to make a contribution to a side which in the month or so has really gathered momentum and confidence,” said the quietly-spoken former Wallace High School player who had thought an Ulster Schools Senior Cup semi-final defeat to a BRA side which included Iain Henderson might be the high point of his career.

“Nowadays that seems a long time ago, but to go on and get the chance to be a professional rugby player has been great, and I hope I can be part of the Ulster set-up for a long time.

“I like to back my work-rate and my energy about the park, and just getting involved in as much as I can, be that on the ball or making tackles.

“December was a good month for us, trying to play Les Kiss’ type of rugby, and it’s been really enjoyable, but that’s all in the past now. We’re all looking forward now. The loss to Munster was disappointing, but it hasn’t affected the mood in the squad, if anything we’ve worked and concentrated harder this week in training.”

McCall is looking forward to a return to action in the European Champions Cup with three games in successive weeks, starting with the visit to Oyonnax on Sunday for the rescheduled tie with the French club.

“We know we’ve put ourselves in a good position in the pool after the wins over Toulouse, but this week’s a new week, and in their own backyard, and on their 3G pitch, it’ll be a very different task for us at Oyonnax.

“Their Top 14 form this year may not have been great but they ran Toulouse very close, and we know from what we’ve seen that they have a big pack, and that they’re physical and competitive at the breakdown.

“I’m expecting a fast, running game, but we want to play our game which is direct and physical. They like to play a bit, so it should be a good contest.”

The young front rower is actually looking forward to playing the match on the artificial surface, convinced that it helps props with good technique and makes it easier for referees to spot offences which might slip ‘under the radar’ on a muddy surface.

“Everything is about getting a win, it’s difficult to win in France and we’re not travelling to do anything else, and if there’s a bonus point that’s exactly what it will be – a bonus!”

McCall is clearly relishing his resumed career in the senior side, and Europe does have a special cachet about it, though he is convinced Ulster is in a good position to make a real impact in Europe and in the GUINNESS PRO12.

“We’re well-placed, and we’ve got to keep our focus, but we are determined to make a real mark this season. It’s looking okay at the moment, but there’s a lot of hard work to be done still, and the way the coaches and the players are in such a confident mood, I just want to be part of it.

“At 24, I’m young for a front row, but personally I want to contribute fully to the side, and to make the place in the side my own, but with competition in my position from Callum Black and Andy Warwick, I’ve got to be on my toes. It’s good to have healthy competition.”

And then his focus turns quickly to the prospect of further progresses in Europe this weekend, as he adds: “The coaches have reminded us all of the ‘buzz’ we all felt after the win in Toulouse, backing up the win at Kingspan Stadium the previous week. I’ll do everything I can to create that feeling again, and I know that goes for everyone in the squad.”