The Tour of Ireland emerging presents an ‘exciting opportunity’ for Ulster-Bel players

Robert Balcon is one of four players in Ireland’s emerging squad of 35 players

Ulster defense coach Jonny Bell says Emerging Ireland’s tour to South Africa offers the nine selected Ulster players an “exciting opportunity” and “a chance to compete for their claims”.

The team will not be available for Saturday’s URC match against the Scarletts and then Leinster and Osprey’s visit to Belfast.

The 35-player squad will travel to play three matches in Bloemfontein.

“It gives some of the Ulster players a chance to make a mark,” Bale said.

“The opportunity that some players have with Ireland, and we wish them luck with that, provides an opportunity for other players to experience here,” he added.

The absence of members of the Junior Ireland squad means that Ulster coach Dan MacFarland should plan without six players who were part of the match-day squad. 36-10 win over Connacht At Kingspan Stadium on Saturday evening.

Stuart Moore, Robert Balcon, Nathan Duak and Tom Stewart, who was named man of the match on his first start, started the season opener, while Callum Reed and Cormac Izuchokwu were introduced to the bench.

Winger Ethan McIlroy, Jake Flannery and Michael MacDonald were other Ulster players named to the squad for the Toyota Challenge Cup matches against Grecoas on September 30, Pumas on October 5, and Cheetah on October 9.

On the positive side for McFarland, seasoned duo John Cooney and Andy Warwick may be in line to return to visit Parkway Scarletts this weekend, but Ian Henderson and James Hume will be among those missing through injury.

“The Scarletts are a team that likes to play a bit of rugby and with their head coach Dwayne Bell after being in Ulster knows our team very well,” Bell noted.

“He probably has something up his sleeve to try and catch us, so we have to be silent against a very good team.

“They have some great players, ball carriers, and the skill to get the ball out wide, so that’s going to be a challenge for us.”

“Real tightness in the group”

After being part of the iconic Ulster European Cup winning team in 1999, Bale joined the county Irish coaching ranks, before moving to Gloucester in 2015 to “grow as a coach” and later stints at Glasgow Warriors and Worcester Warriors.

The 48-year-old says it has always been his desire to return to his home province and is excited about the possibility of helping Ulster challenge the awards as the newest member of McFarland’s coaching staff.

“The motivation for me was to be part of an Ulster team that was growing and getting better and better,” explained the 36-time Ireland international.

“I’m coming back to really try and add value to that and try to achieve things with this team, which I think they are capable of.

“It will be hard work but I am excited to be a part of it.

“I am a big fan of the group of players. We have really good senior players who lead to high standards and the group of youngsters who are incredibly motivated and very professional. They are a fantastic group of players.

“There is real militancy in the group and I don’t aim to revolutionize by any means, just help advance the work that has already been done.”