Opportunity knocks for Gilroy in Ulster’s opener

Ireland international Craig Gilroy gets a quick opportunity to show his credentials after being named on the left wing for Ulster in tonight’s Guinness Pro12 opener at Parc de Scarlets.

Opportunity knocks for Gilroy in Ulster’s opener

With Ulster blessed with a gaggle of talented wing merchants and Andrew Trimble lurking on the bench for this game, Gilroy is just glad to be at the coalface for the new season.

This is interim head coach Les Kiss’ first competition selection, the three A-listed newcomers getting a start with full-back Louis Ludik, lock Franco van der Merwe and tight-head Wiehahn Herbst togging out on a side again captained by number 8 Roger Wilson.

Kiss has again linked Jared Payne in the number 13 jersey with the extremely talented Stuart Olding inside him. Obviously Kiss has one eye on his full-time job as Ireland’s assistant coach with Brian O’Driscoll leaving a huge gap to fill, and the now Irish-qualified Jared Payne in prime strike position.

But for Gilroy, who appears to have added the full-back role to his artillery, it’s a relief that he is fit to start.

“It’s actually great to be here for the start of the season, as I missed it year through injury,” said Gilroy capped five times for Ireland. “When I did get going, I spent most of the season trying to play catch-up, which at times was very frustrating. My goal this season is to stay fit. I just want to really enjoy my rugby again and get back to scoring tries again.

“But to be honest, I felt I had returned to my best form towards the end, and especially in my relevant new position at full-back, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

“I felt particularly good when I went on tour with the emerging Ireland side in Romania, where again I played a bit of full-back and got on really well. So really I was happy the way things panned out in the end. That helped get a bit of my confidence back.

“I suppose also playing at full-back gives me an option. I’m starting to enjoy the number 15 jersey and I’ve played a lot there over pre-season, doing a lot of moves. You tend to get a lot more ball at 15, and I like to counter-attack from deep, when the ball is kicked to me. But of course, you also have to play smart, clear your lines.”

ULSTER: L Ludik; M Allen, J Payne, S Olding, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, P Marshall; C Black, R Herring, W Herbst, D Tuohy, F van der Merwe, R Diack, C Henry, R Wilson, capt.

Replacements: J Andrew, A Warwick, D Fitzpatrick, L Stevenson, N Williams, M Heaney, L Marshall, A Trimble.

SCARLETS: L Williams; H Robinson, R King, S Williams, M Tagicakibau; R Priestland, G Davies; P John, K Owens (c), R Jones; J Ball, J Snyman; R McCusker, J Barclay, R Pitman.

Replacement: E Phillips, R Evans, P Edwards, R Kelly, A Shingler, R Williams, S Shingler, G Owen.

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