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Ulsterman Addison hungry for more after Ireland debut in Chicago

The 26-year-old is pleased his move to Ulster is paying off.

Murray Kinsella reports from Chicago

JOE SCHMIDT HAD been working on Will Addison for some time even before he agreed to a move to Ulster ahead of this season.

The versatile back qualifies for Ireland through his Fermanagh-born mother and, as tends to be the case, Schmidt was among the first to identify the potential.

There were whispers around Addison potentially coming back to Ireland the last time he extended his deal with Sale Sharks in 2016, and Schmidt has kept in intermittent contact with the 26-year-old, as well as watching his games closely, for some years now.

Ross Byrne and Will Addison after the game Addison with fellow new cap Ross Byrne in Chicago. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s a while ago now, I’m struggling to remember,” says Addison after being asked when Schmidt first contacted him, but there is little doubt that the Ireland head coach played the long game here.

“Once you hear that voice down the phone it’s a bit awe-inspiring,” continues Addison.

“I’ve had a bit of contact here or there with him but the main focus for me after that sort of contact with a man like him is to put the hard work in. Fortunately, I’ve got to this stage now but it’s only a start and I’ve got to keep kicking on.”

Addison, a former England U20 cap, made his debut for Ireland in Chicago yesterday, playing 20 minutes off the bench and relishing his first taste of Test rugby.

His week in Chicago was “a whirlwind experience” and Addison is now keen to push on and get further opportunities in the coming weeks as he attempts to convince Schmidt that he’s an indispensable squad member moving forward.

Addison has impressed at outside centre for Ulster in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, but also shone at fullback early in the campaign.

It was at fullback that he made his Test bow yesterday and he’s happy to play anywhere when it comes to the green shirt.

“I’ve been really enjoying my rugby at 15 this year,” says Addison. “Probably 13 historically would have been my favourite, you get a bit of time on the ball and probably the role of 13 and 15 at Ulster are fairly similar with your coverage in the backfield.

“But I’m really enjoying both of them. We play some pretty attractive rugby in Ulster and here, so the more times I get my hands on the ball tends to be where I enjoy my rugby most, and that tends to be at 13 or 15. 

Will Addison and Stuart McInally Addison has been excellent for Ulster this season. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“You can’t complain about getting on the pitch. I’m just looking forward to getting involved as much as I can and whether that’s at prop, fullback or wherever, you just want to get on the pitch with the amount of talent that is in this squad.”

The trip to Chicago wasn’t Addison’s first involvement with Ireland. He trained with the squad in Melbourne during the summer tour of Australia, conveniently being on holiday in the city at the time.

“It actually helped a huge amount,” says Addison. “I think when you’re coming into camp, we do a lot of walk-throughs and the knowledge is what we’re really after and you’ve got to have that base knowledge.

“Me having a little bit of a cheat by having those couple of days in Australia was really helpful. The guys helped me bed in when I was in Australia and luckily I made a few notes from those two days and that helped me out.”

The former Sale captain was also part of Ireland’s two-day camp in August, teeing them up for this international season.

His first cap leaves him hungry for more, with big Tests against Argentina and the All Blacks to come in the next two weekends.

“I’ve got this taste for it now and I’m just looking to kick on again,” says Addison, while acknowledging that the form of the likes of Jordan Larmour will make life difficult for him in terms of selection.

Having impressed for Ulster and made his Ireland debut, Addison is pleased with how things have gone for him on these shores since his move from Sale, although he is cognisant of the fact that injury is always a threat in rugby.

Jordi Murphy, Will Addison and Bundee Aki Addison with Jordi Murphy and Bundee Aki at the Chicago Bulls' United Centre. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Having taken a major leap in leaving behind the club captaincy at Sale, Addison is keen to keep pushing forward.

“Honestly, it was a huge decision to leave the club I loved at Sale and I had some great memories from there and close friendships and being captain, it was tough to leave,” he says.

“But once I made the decision to leave, I put everything into making it the right decision and luckily I’ve been rewarded with this experience, but I need to do a lot more to make the decision worthwhile. 

“It’s been an amazing experience so far, the experience at Ulster has been unbelievable and it’s really pushed me to become a better player, and that’s why I made the decision in the end – to become a better player and hopefully end up in this arena.” 

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Murray Kinsella

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