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The setbacks keep coming as Addison tries to recapture sparkling form

After overcoming injury issues a suspension is set to keep the Ulster player out of action.

Addison has had a difficult time with injuries in the last year.
Addison has had a difficult time with injuries in the last year.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

FOR A FEW minutes, Will Addison let his mind wander. 

He had just been informed that he was being pulled from Ulster’s squad ahead of their pre-season friendly against Glasgow Warriors in September, with his withdrawal officially confirmed just minutes before that game. 

The official line was that Addison was nursing an injury, but with Robbie Henshaw struggling with a hamstring issue at the Rugby World Cup, nobody bought it. 

“Now it’s all said and done, I think we know that I’d had a chat to Joe [Schmidt] in the morning of the game and I was pulled out as a precaution because of the doubt over Robbie,” says Addison. 

“I’ve known Joe long enough over the three or four years I’ve talked to him that you can’t take things for granted. I knew Joe is so meticulous that it wasn’t a given that I’d be heading over the next day, that it was a process to cover all bases. 

“You have that giddy feeling for a moment but you quickly realise it’s just part of the plan. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t work out to get over there but thankfully Robbie got fit and played in the tournament.” 

And so it was back to the grind at Ulster, where it is shaping up to be a big year for the 27-year-old. After a bright start to life in Belfast last season – including an Ireland debut just two months after making his first appearance for Ulster – injury hit. He made just two appearances for the province in January before requiring back surgery which ended his season. Having missed the entire Six Nations, his chances of making the World Cup looked slim. Addison played in one of Ireland’s four World Cup warm-up games before missing out on the final squad.  

It would be easy to feel sorry for himself, but Addison is noticeably chipper as he reflects on those setbacks. 

“As soon as I realised I needed back surgery back in January or whatever it was I knew the World Cup would be in doubt,” he says. 

“So, for me to be then involved later in the pre-World Cup series was a tribute to not only my own diligence in the rehab we put in, but also the medical guys in Ulster and with Ireland. That was a massive thing for me. 

“I always knew I was on the back-foot, but I also knew I could make an impression in training. I had a small calf injury during the pre-season that held me back from the Italy [warm-up] game and that was frustrating. I always felt I could make an impression, but unfortunately I was competing with guys like Chris Farrell and Andrew Conway who were outstanding in pre-season. So, my injury counted for something but those guys’ form also counted for something.” 

will-addison-with-paul-jedrasiak Addison was cited for his tackle on Clermont's Paul Jedrasiak. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Unfortunately for Addison, another set-back came his way after this interview was conducted.

On Wednesday evening he received a four week ban after being cited for a tackle on Paul Jedrasiak during the Heineken Champions Cup defeat of Clermont last Friday. Ulster have an option to appeal the decision, but for now he is set to miss the December double-header against Harlequins in the Heineken Champions Cup, as well as Guinness Pro14 meetings with Scarlets [Friday] and Leinster [20 December].


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Before that news broke, Addison explained how he was feeling positive about the future. He outlines that despite a handful of long-term injuries, he is not the type of player who breaks down easily. The stats back up his argument. In his 11 appearances for Ulster last season, Addison played the full 80 minutes 10 times. In his four outings this season, he’s lasted the whole game three times, the exception being a Pro14 defeat of Zebre where he was forced off after 17 minutes. When injury does rear its head, he’s learned to be productive with his free time.

“It’s part of rugby. People say that sport is the best microcosm for life itself and building resilience,” he continues. 

“That’s something I’ve been accustomed to, not only with Ulster and Ireland but also with Sale. I believe it makes you stronger and it gives you an opportunity to improve in other areas. 

“When I was at Sale I managed to complete a degree when I was injured. You can tick off other things when you have those knocks. I feel like I am at a place now where I can look after myself. Once I get a run of games, I feel like I can be pretty robust and stand up to a number of game-time. 

“It was just an unfortunate thing last year that the back injury curtailed my season, but up until then I hadn’t had an injury last season, so I think it will be one of those that I get a couple of games under the belt, and I’ll be there or thereabouts, fit for the rest of the season.” 

With two wins from two in the Champions Cup, Ulster are well placed heading into the back-to-back games against Harlequins. Those games lead into a run of Pro14 inter-provincial derbies against Leinster, Connacht and Munster, before the conclusion of the Champions Cup pool stages. 

Come through that block in decent shape [currently Addison is free to play again after the Leinster game], and Ulster will be facing into an exciting second half of the season. 

“It’s been a tough couple of months, you work hard to get back and then you have a set-back straight after. It can be tough at times,” he admits.

“It has been a long spell out, it’s been part of my frustration this year is that I’ve been trying to prove something, trying to get back to where I was last year.”

Will Addison was speaking at an event where Kingspan competition winners enjoyed a coaching masterclass with Ulster senior players at Kingspan Stadium.

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