Fit-again Addison emerges as the 'Jack of all trades, we may well need'

The Ulster back is set for his first appearance since January on Saturday.

IT WAS CLEAR from the moment Will Addison linked up with the Ireland squad back in July that the Ulster back was still very much part of Joe Schmidt’s World Cup plans, even if he had been initially omitted from the extended training panel.

After back surgery had curtailed his debut season with the northern province, Addison’s hopes of making the plane to Japan looked to be over earlier in the summer, yet one big performance could now earn him a ticket.

will-addison Addison at Carton House this week. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Set to start at fullback for Ireland at the Principality Stadium tomorrow afternoon [KO 2.30pm, Channel 4], the 27-year-old will make his first appearance since last January against Wales having come through a tough pre-season.

Injury had seen Addison drop deeper down the pecking order but a strong showing in the backfield in Cardiff on Saturday would place him firmly in Schmidt’s decision-making thoughts when the head coach looks to finalise his 31-man squad by Monday. 

The three-time capped international has already shown his versatility at Test level, playing in midfield, on the wing and at fullback during his brief Ireland career, and he will even provide out-half cover this weekend behind Jack Carty. 

In this numbers game, versatility is key and the worth of a fit-again Addison might be difficult for Schmidt to overlook.

“It’s his first run-out in a long time,” the head coach said. “He didn’t play the backend of the season, so for Will, it’s a really important opportunity. But he has to hit the ground running.

“He has trained really well this week, so we’d be very hopeful he can slot in very quickly. He’s stepped in at very late notice against Argentina last year to play 13 and did a really good job for us. That’s the sort of flexibility he offers. He’s a very capable kicker of the ball, including goalkicking, so he becomes that jack of all trades that we may well need.

He is a Jack of all trades, but he’s a master of a few as well. We would love to see him put his best foot forward on Saturday.

With back three places at a premium, the stakes couldn’t be any higher for Addison and Munster’s Andrew Conway tomorrow afternoon, and the Ulster back knows he will need to seize his one and only chance.

It has been a long road back after the disappointment of missing the Six Nations and Ulster’s Champions Cup and Pro14 knockout games, but he has worked hard to put himself back in a position to go to a first World Cup with Ireland.

“You’re always looking for an opportunity, but we’ve got a great squad and a great team here,” Addison says.

will-addison The Ulster back will win his fourth cap on Saturday. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s always a thrill to be a part of that and unfortunately it didn’t happen for me in the Six Nations, having had an injury. I’m fortunate enough to be in the position that I’m in now.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity at the weekend to just take a step in the right direction. I had great support from the medical team up at Ulster and down here as well.

“We worked really hard to get myself right for the start of pre-season. We missed the first window, but we worked really hard again and I got the opportunity to come into camp in the Galway week. Since then, it has been smooth sailing really in terms of my injury. Feeling like I’m getting up to speed now.”

Having sat out the first two warm-up games, Addison has had an extended window to work with the Ireland medical and strength and conditioning staff in camp and he feels in optimum condition now to step back into the Test arena.

“You have bumps in the road with your injuries,” he continues. “You have your dark days where you think you’re not going to quite make it. I’ve got a great support network in my family and friends, and in the club. Once I got on the right track for my injury, I felt like I could get back in the frame. 

“I’ve got a great opportunity this weekend with a really exciting new team and new partnerships as well. I’m buzzing about the weekend and just seeing where it will take us.” 

Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey and Bernard Jackman try to identify how Ireland can get back on track after Twickenham.

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