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Ulster lock Treadwell's path points to Ireland caps under Schmidt

The 21-year-old has made a positive impression since his move from Harlequins last summer.

WITH DONNACHA RYAN heading for Paris this summer, Ireland could do with an emerging force in the second row and Kieran Treadwell looks like he fits the bill.

Iain Henderson and Ultan Dillane are already on the international ladder, of course, but it appears that Ulster lock Treadwell will be joining them sooner rather than later.

[image alt="Kieran Treadwell" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2017/05/kieran-treadwell-630x414.jpg" width="630" height="414" credit-source="INPHO" caption="Treadwell%20has%20shown%20his%20promise%20this%20season." class="alignnone" /end]

The 21-year-old was part of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland training squad around Christmas time last year and he looks a fine bet to tour the US and Japan in June as his development continues.

England-born Treadwell, who joined Ulster from Harlequins last summer, is a product of the Exiles system. His mother is Irish and the family has a holiday home in Wexford, so Ireland was always familiar place.

After Treadwell missed out on making the England U16s, the Exiles’ Mark Blair invited him to trials and the dynamic lock made it into the final squad, playing against the Irish provinces and then starring for the Ireland U18 Clubs side in 2013.

His performances meant Leinster and Ulster showed interest, but Treadwell had been part of the Harlequins academy from the age of 16 – young players generally link with clubs earlier in England – and in the end, he opted to remain in his native land after leaving school.

“It was tough and there was a lot of deliberation around where I should go and what I should do,” says Treadwell. “There were two big factors for me – that I was at Harlequins and logistically I was advised to go the England route with regards to it being easier for them to assess me and look at me.

“It was the right thing for me to do at the time.”

Treadwell played for the England U18s and graduated into the U20 side, starting all five games of the 2015 Six Nations and helping them into the final of that summer’s Junior World Championship.

[image alt="Kieran Treadwell" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2017/05/kieran-treadwell-2-630x429.jpg" width="630" height="429" credit-source="INPHO" caption="Treadwell%20in%20action%20for%20the%20Ireland%20U18%20Clubs%20in%202013." class="alignnone" /end]

Last season saw Treadwell make four appearances for Quins in the Challenge Cup under then boss Conor O’Shea, as well as playing for London Scottish in the Championship on a dual-registration basis.

“Harlequins was great for experience,” says Treadwell. “I got a few opportunities to play and they were great. It was a good bunch of boys and a few of my schoolmates were there.

“I had a few dealings with Conor when I was in the mix. He’s a very clever guy, he knows what he’s talking about. He’s a straight-talker, which I like.”

But the IRFU been keeping a close eye on Treadwell and had been in touch with O’Shea to track the lock’s progress as his chances of playing for England – whose range of lock options is enviable – dipped.

Les Kiss got in touch with an offer to join Ulster on a two-year deal and Treadwell jumped at the opportunity.

“There was a clear opportunity here and being Irish-qualified was a massive thing for me, and thank goodness I did come over,” says the lock, who has gone on to play 20 times in a season that has been “fantastic for my personal development.”

While Ulster have struggled, Treadwell has shown his promise. A mobile player – he was a hurdler in his youth – and an impressive physical specimen at 6’7″, he has actually dropped weight since arriving in Ireland, down to his current 117kg.

“It was tough because I came over here quite heavy at 123kg and I couldn’t get around the pitch, I couldn’t carry around the pitch when I was playing at the top level.

[image alt="Kieran Treadwell" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2017/05/kieran-treadwell-3-630x437.jpg" width="630" height="437" credit-source="INPHO" caption="The%2021-year-old%20is%20a%20fine%20ball%20carrier." class="alignnone" /end]

“There was some deliberation about where I needed to be body weight-wise and body composition-wise. They’re great here in Ulster; they really help you with regards to what you should and shouldn’t be eating, where you want to be physically and monitoring all of that.”

Treadwell has some previous experience of playing at blindside flanker, starting a game there as recently as last season for London Scottish, but second row has always been his position.

Nonetheless, his comfort at getting on the ball will be a positive for Ulster in the coming years. He is happy to hammer rucks and make hits, but this lock is about more than the workhorse duties.

“Being a second row, there is a massive work-rate aspect to it, ” says Treadwell. “But I think nowadays second rows have become a bit more athletic, sort of like an extra back row, really, so that if they are in those wide spaces they can carry, pass, have more of a skillset than what they used to.”

Treadwell is capable of calling lineouts and has done lots of it in the past but has not been handed that responsibility in his first campaign with Ulster.

The experience of training with Ireland late last year was another important part of his development, with the exposure to Schmidt’s methods and feedback providing him with plenty to work on.

“It was really, really high tempo,” says the lock. “You think you play at a high tempo and then you go to camp and it’s even higher.

[image alt="Kieran Treadwell" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2017/05/kieran-treadwell-5-630x414.jpg" width="630" height="414" credit-source="INPHO" caption="Treadwell%20understand%20that%20he%20has%20plenty%20to%20learn." class="alignnone" /end]

“It was a great experience and it’s just been a year full of them. I’m still learning, I’m still young, so I’m taking in everything I can and hopefully putting it into the performances.

“There’s been personal feedback and it’s been good, stuff that I can work on in my game.”

And while Treadwell is hopeful of being back in the Ireland set-up for next month’s tour, his only focus this week is helping Ulster to finish their disappointing season with a home win against Leinster.

“I’d be hopeful and obviously I want to go, but the main focus for me is this last game of the season for Ulster. I’ve got to perform, we’ve got to perform. We’ve got boys who are leaving and we’ve got serious pride on the line.

“We definitely need to show the fans something. It’s going to be a packed-out stadium and we need to put in a performance they can be proud of.”

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Murray Kinsella

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