The Irish speedster has impressed with his try-scoring feats in the Pro14

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Ulster wing Robert Baloucoune

Date of birth 19 August 1997 Born Enniskillen Position Wing Province Ulster Country Ireland

When did you get involved in rugby?

I did football and athletics when I was younger, and only started rugby in secondary school. My first proper game was when I was 15. A lot of my friends played.

Did you like it straightaway? 

I didn’t know all the rules so was giving away a few too many penalties, but I enjoyed it.

What positions have you played? 

It was full-back at school. There were a couple of times I played centre, but I prefer the back three; there’s space to run.

Any childhood heroes? 

I followed football more when I was younger and I’m an Arsenal fan, so Thierry Henry.

What are your strengths? 

The coaches would say my natural speed; I try to back myself to run around someone and beat defenders. In terms of defence, I’d back my tackling and ability to read defences.

And work-ons? 

I want to improve my kicking game and I tried to do that during lockdown – chip-and-chase, the ability to kick on the run.

When did you link up with Ulster? 

I was 17-18. I played for Ulster U19 in my last year of school, then dropped out the following year. I was injured and lost interest because I wasn’t able to play or train. Then I played for Enniskillen, my club, and by the end of the season I was fully fit and got picked up again. I think the year out did me well as I then played for Ulster A and eventually the seniors.

Any representative honours? 

I’ve played for Ireland Sevens, which was a good experience. You’re under more stress in sevens and have to make sure you’re able to do the fundamentals. It helped me as a player as when I came back to 15s I wasn’t under so much stress, I had more time to make decisions in a game.

What do you want to achieve in the next 12 months? 

I want to push myself through for Ulster and if that leads to an Ireland cap, I’d be happy enough with that.

RW Verdict: He scored six tries in seven starts for Ulster last season and was named as a development player by Ireland. Hamstring surgery has stalled his progress, but if he recaptures that form he will be hard for Andy Farrell to ignore.

This article originally appeared in the October 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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