John Andrew ready for bench press

Patience is a virtue for Ulster hooker John Andrew. He has won 31 caps for the province, but will only start his fifth game in three seasons when the Conference B table-toppers head to Italy on Saturday to face Michael Bradley’s Zebre outfit.

John Andrew ready for bench press

The 24-year-old from Ballymena has had to wait diligently on the bench as Ireland skipper Rory Best and his erstwhile rival Rob Herring had the number two jersey sewn up unless injury came into the equation.

But Andrew, who scored his one and only try for Ulster two weeks ago has patience in spades, and the right attitude.

“It can be difficult sitting on the bench, but if you sit and huff and throw your head up, you’re not really going to take your opportunity when you get it,” said Andrew. “Maybe it’s 10 minutes or you get an hour, you just have to be switched on. I just try and come on and provide energy when guys are tiring,” said Andrew who has received some stick following his celebration in scoring the winning try against the Scarlets two weeks ago.

“I don’t think it was the coolest of touchdowns as I’m not used to scoring tries. But I think a wee bit of emotion came out. I was just happy enough just to get that win. It just meant such a lot,” said Andrew, who although a regular benchman, feels he is getting closer to a starting spot.

“I definitely do. Obviously when you are young and come through, it’s a big deal to be sitting on the bench. But now I don’t want to be sitting on the bench. I want to start. Everyone wants to be starting, but you just have to perform well when you are coming off the bench and then put your hand up to get a start. I do think I have got better as the seasons have gone on, and I like to think I’m pushing Rob (Herring) a bit,” said Andrew, who admits head coach Jono Gibbes, a renowned hardman on the pitch, is a formidable presence in the Ulster dressing room.

“Let’s put it like this I wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of him! Even at this stage I think he would put you in your place if he needed to. He’s a very positive guy, but you know he takes no nonsense.”

He expects a difficult test from Zebre on Sunday.

“I don’t think anyone inside the team thinks this is going to be an easy game. In their game last week in South Africa, they smashed the Kings. Usually, Italian teams at home have always proved sticky for us and they look even better this year than they maybe have been. We know we are in for a tough game.”

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