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Dublin: 18 °C Monday 18 June, 2018

Luke Marshall's focus solely on starting with Ulster as opposed to the green jersey

As his side face Scarlets on Friday, this week marks the fifth anniversary of the tragic death of Nevin Spence, his father and brother.

Luke Marshall.
Luke Marshall.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

ULSTER CENTRE LUKE Marshall says he’s only focused on trying to get into the province’s starting line-up despite playing two games on Ireland’s summer tour.

The 26-year old was named at inside centre against the US Eagles and for the second Test against Japan as Joe Schmidt explored his options at centre with Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne away with the British & Irish Lions.

Now with Henshaw, Payne and also Garry Ringrose all out with long-term injuries, there’s a chance for others to stake their claim for a starting berth when the Autumn Internationals roll around.

And as he returns to action with his province, Marshall says he sees the chances in the national set-up but that right now he’s only focusing on Ulster.

“For myself, looking to the Ireland set-up, when I knew Robbie and Garry were out with injuries I felt there was definitely a bit of an opportunity,” the Ballymena man admitted.

“But there is still lots of competition – Chris Farrell coming back to Munster and Bundee Aki is now available in the Ireland set-up.

“But the competition is still here at Ulster to get a starting shirt. Obviously Jared can do a very good job for the team, Darren (Cave) is still playing great rugby.

“And with the new coaching set-up, to be honest I was just looking to get a starting shirt here as opposed to looking to Ireland.”

He’s likely to regain that starting jersey at outside centre for this weekend’s clash with defending Guinness PRO14 champions the Scarlets at the Kingspan Stadium.

Luke Marshall Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Llanelli-based outfit are one of two sides, along with Munster, to come away from Belfast with four points in the last two seasons and have started this campaign in much the same fashion to how they ended last year.

With a less-than impressive win over Treviso last weekend, Ulster know they need to produce a much better performance this week against a side boasting arguably the best back line in the league.

“It’s a challenge,” Marshall believes. “We know most people will have us as underdogs, they’ve two bonus points from two, they’re defending champions and you just look at their team, the quality they have and the back line particularly.

“It’s a challenge but we’re looking forward to it. We have a point to prove, people are probably doubting us, certainly our defensive capabilities, so we need to prove them wrong and go out and get a result.”

This week will also be an emotional one for the northern province as it will mark the fifth anniversary of the tragic death of Nevin Spence, his father Noel and brother Graham.

Ulster was rocked in 2012 by the untimely passing of the three in an incident on their family farm and will mark the occasion with a minute’s silence before Friday’s game.

“It’ll definitely be (poignant). It’s amazing it’s that long has passed,” Marshall says.

“It will be emotional, but I suppose we have to respect (the Scarlets) and put our minds to the game, not let it affect us team-wise.

“But remembering Nevin and the tragedy of him, his brother and his dad losing their lives, it’s poignant no matter what time, whether it’s the anniversary or not. It’s crazy to think it was five years ago, it feels like last week.”

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Adam McKendry

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