Eric O’Sullivan grateful for lifeline at Ulster

Eric O’Sullivan

Much has been made of the heavy one-way traffic heading from Leinster to Ulster in the last few years, but for at least one of the imports it was no wrench at all to leave his native province.

Eric O’Sullivan was not so much a forgotten man at Leinster — the loosehead had never even been thought about in the first place.

After playing underage for Leinster, he was overlooked for a place in the academy and he was within months of giving up on rugby, to focus on his engineering studies, when the Ulster academy came calling.

“Kieran Campbell phoned to say they only had two fit props and could I play a game that weekend, and it went from there,” says O’Sullivan.

This season has been an incredible promotion to the big time for the 23-year-old, who was name-checked at Christmas by the national head coach Joe Schmidt as one to watch out for in 2019.

“It was great to get that mention and to think you’re on Joe’s radar was very encouraging,” he says.

O’Sullivan had set modest goals for himself at the start of the season. Five caps for Ulster was the sum total of what he felt was a realistic target. He can now smile about it.

“I had to reassess that pretty quickly. It’s been a great season for me and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m still not comfortable quite yet, but I’m getting there.

Coming up against Tadhg Furlong was a nervous week for me but on the day I felt it went alright.

“You learn, and the bad days are the ones you really learn from, the Sportsground against Connacht was one that was a big learning for me.”

He’ll get an opportunity to face both of those teams in the next week or so, albeit Leinster are expected to field a shadow side for their final Conference B PRO14 game tomorrow night at Kingspan Stadium.

O’Sullivan would love to savour a win over Leinster, heading into a crunch PRO14 quarter-final against Connacht the following week.

He’ll have more ex-Leinster men to keep him company next season with Lions prop Jack McGrath becomes the latest to move north.

His arrival could clip O’Sullivan’s wings a bit, but he welcomes the competition and opportunity to learn from the best.

“It’s great to see that quality of player coming in. I think it’s only going to progress the group and me as an individual, so it’s very exciting.”

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