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'I'm sick of hearing about when Ulster last won silverware'

Rob Lyttle was nine when his native province claimed the Celtic League and craves some silverware he can lift himself.
Sep 11th 2020, 8:01 AM 5,637 4

A GOLDEN GENERATION has come and, mostly, gone. Yet silverware has remained elusive for 14 long years in Ulster.

Rob Lyttle, who so sensationally brought Ulster back into Saturday’s Pro14 semi-final away to Edinburgh doesn’t have a formative memory of the trophy being raised on that rainy night in Swansea. He was nine years old.

The image of trophies that may yet come are just as important.

“Haven’t a clue to be honest,” Lyttle says when asked about his memories from 2006 – since when, all three other provinces have claimed at least one pot apiece.

“I think it’s safe to say I’m sick of hearing about when Ulster last won silverware, so it’s time we stepped up and won it ourselves.”

Good chances are hard to come by, but Ulster have just that when they face Leinster at the Aviva Stadium in tomorrow’s Pro14 final.

When I was growing up, all I wanted to be was Andrew Trimble, so if I can go out and replicate it then I’ll be more than happy. Those guys definitely inspired me.
“I’ve probably been thinking about (winning a trophy) since I made my debut for Ulster, to be honest. It’s not something I’m going to start thinking about just this week. It’s obviously very exciting, the prospect of potentially lifting the Pro14, and it’s definitely something that’ll spur me on to give the best to the team.”

Four years on from his two-try-scoring debut, Lyttle has matured and rounded out his skill-set beyond being an elusive, balanced flyer. He also feels solidifed mentally. A calmer presence amidst the assault on the senses that matches bring.

“You’re young and you’re playing with guys you used to watch on TV and there’s a crowd.

“It’s a long way different from playing for school or club. there’s pressure, but once you get used to that and realise it’s just a game of rugby, the game you grew up playing. When you played because you wanted to play it and enjoyed it. Once you get past the professional thing you’re just out there having a bit of fun and that’s ultimately… I’m just enjoying myself and my rugby.

“For me it was a gradual thing. As I became more relaxed and comfortable I realised it was just a game at the end of the day.”

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rob-lyttle-spills-ball-under-pressure-from-jacko-van-der-walt Source: Craig Watson/INPHO

At 5’9″ and well under 90kg, it’s no mean feat to find comfort in rugby’s land of the giants. Improving his defence has gone a long way to bringing that about.

“I’ve played with Jared (Payne) and he was a great help then as he is now as a coach. I feel a lot more comfortable on the ball and certainly more comfortable in defence. I felt very stressed before, but now I just feel good.

“When you’re not the biggest bloke on the pitch then you need to make sure you’re in the right position all the time or you can very easily get caught out or run over the top of by big guys.

“The thing I’ve been working on with Jared is my positioning, not giving those easy one-on-one chances because whenever you’re smaller, those one-on-ones are a lot more difficult to make.”

15-on-15 against Leinster in a final the little guys , the 11-point underdogs, will be fiercely determined to keep a 25th straight win out of reach for the reigning champions and hosts.

“We try not to focus too much on Leinster. It’s very clear they are the favourites, they haven’t lost a game,” says Lyttle.

“We’re not going down to lose, we’re going down to win… as long as we play our best and put our best performance I think we’ll be more than good enough.”

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