‘You’ve got to be realistic. When you play rugby, your career can end at anytime’
Ulster fan favourite, Luke Marshall certainly hit the ground running on his return from long-term injury this season.
The dynamic centre has faced no shortage of challenges in his career – from his well-documented series of concussions to a torn ACL in the last game of the 2017-2018 season.
Marshall made his return to action as a replacement for Darren Cave in Ulster’s pulsating 21-18 European quarter-final defeat in Dublin. Two minutes after coming onto the field Marshall bulldozed his way over the whitewash.
His impressive impact at the tail-end of Ulster’s season was due in no small part to Marshall’s resilience – apart from the usual rehab, Marshall dedicated himself to improving his skills and doing everything possible to return to match action as sharp as possible.
Here, Ulster’s inspirational fan favourite, Luke Marshall, chats to Ulster Rugby Lad about what made him the player he has become.
Who or what made you passionate about rugby?
My dad and my two brothers played rugby before me so it was in the family and my dad also coached. I suppose I really just wanted to follow in their footsteps.
Who was your biggest influence growing up (both in rugby and outside rugby)?
Again, my family and more specifically my dad. They were always so supportive and they gave me a lot of the inspiration needed to pursue a career in rugby.
When did you first think you had a chance of making it as a professional rugby player?
Probably not really until I got into the Ulster Academy, up to that point I thought it was just an unrealistic pipe dream!
What is the best advice you have been given?
Hard work beats talent.
What would you tell your 17-year-old self?
Work harder in school.
What would you be doing if you didn’t play for Ulster?
I don’t even want to think about that!
What’s the best and worst thing about being a professional rugby player?
Getting paid to do your favourite hobby is the best thing. The worst thing is how sore your body is after a game.
My highlight was winning the Ballyclare mini rugby tournament when I was in p5.
My low point was missing the last kick of the game to lose against Methody in the schools cup semi-final.
When you think of the word ‘successful’ who’s the first person who comes to mind and why?
Tiger Woods – he absolutely dominated his sport and totally changed the game.
What is something you believe that other people would find strange or disagree with?
I prefer dogs to people.
What is your favourite documentary or movie?
Would have to be Braveheart or Gladiator.
Spending time with my dogs and maybe having a cup of coffee to get me going.
What obsessions do you explore in your free time?
Walking my dogs and trying to find new places to walk them.
What topic would you speak about if you were asked to give a TED talk on something outside of rugby?
What is the best/ most worthwhile purchase/investment you’ve made?
Everything happens for a reason.
What is the worst advice you see or hear being dispensed in the rugby world?
Never believe what is said about you whether good or bad.
How has a failure, or apparent failure set you up for a later success?
All of my injuries have led to something better and have made a stronger as an individual.
What have you changed your mind about in the past few years? Why?
Letting my wife do work to the house, she has finally got her way!
What are your plans post rugby?
Hopefully moving out to the countryside and leading a more quiet existent with a steady job.
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Connacht Rugby announce signings of Ben O’Donnell and Abraham Papali’i
Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce the signings of Australian 7s player Ben O’Donnell and Bay of Plenty Number 8 Abraham Papali’i.
The pair will link up with the squad before the start of the 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 season.
Ben O’Donnell joins from the Australian Sevens programme, having played 95 matches for his country since he was handed his debut in 2017 under Andy Friend. The 24-year old went on to score 47 tries in that time and has been a key figure in their progression through the World Rugby Seven Series over the past three seasons.
O’Donnell was voted Australian Sevens Player of the year in 2018 and subsequently went on to be the first Australian player ever nominated for the World Sevens Player of the Year.
New Zealander Abraham Papali’i arrives from Bay of Plenty where he was a key member of the squad that won the Mitre 10 Cup Championship last year. The Auckland-born duel code player started his Rugby Union career with North Harbour before being recruited into the New Zealand Warriors (Rugby League) pathway. In 2015 Papali’i signed a two year contract with the Sydney Roosters of the Australian National Rugby League (NRL).
Following his time with the Roosters, Papali’i joined Lézignan Sangliers in the premier French Rugby League competition before the 6’4” number 8 returned to New Zealand and successfully restarted his Rugby Union career with Bay of Plenty.
Head Coach Andy Friend says today’s announcement is a significant boost ahead of the return to rugby.
“I am delighted to welcome Ben and Abraham to Connacht Rugby.
I got to know Ben very well on the Australian Sevens scene. It did not surprise me that he went on to become such an important player for them and I am thrilled that he has chosen to join Connacht.
Abraham is a powerful number 8 who has all the attributes to become a really valuable player for us while furthering our options in the back row. I know every Connacht supporter will be excited to see what he can offer.”
Friend expressed his excitement about the announcement and what the squad can achieve in the upcoming season.
“Today’s announcement comes on the back of discussions that started a number of months ago and we are delighted to eventually be able to share this exciting news with all of our supporters today.
These signings bring our squad up to 43 players for next season. We have freshened up and added depth to our squad in a number of key areas, having signed a healthy blend of young exciting players who have come through our Academy system as well as bringing in some additional quality and experience from further afield.
We are an ambitious group and I firmly believe we have all the tools we need to kick on to the next level and achieve success in what is going to be a really exciting season.”
Press Release from Connacht Rugby
Connacht raid Provincial rivals. 4 new signings confirmed.
The quartet will become Connacht Rugby players from July 1st with Arnold, Dowling and Aungier penning two-year deals.
Irish international Sammy Arnold has made 44 appearances for Munster since joining the province from Ulster in 2016, scoring 8 tries in the process. The 24-year-old centre has been named both Ulster Academy Player of the Year and Munster Young Player of the Year, and made his International debut against USA in the 2018 Autumn Internationals.
Back row Conor Oliver has featured 28 times for Munster since making his debut in February 2016 and was named Munster Academy Player of the Year the following season. The 24-year-old can play on either flanks or as a number 8, expanding the coaching team’s options heading into the new season.
Oliver and Arnold both featured for Ireland in the 2015 World Rugby U20 Championship, who were then coached by current Connacht Attack Coach Nigel Carolan.
Jack Aungier made his Leinster senior debut last November and has gone on to make 5 appearances for the side in the current Guinness PRO14 season. The prop has also impressed at underage level, featuring for the Ireland U20s and U18 Clubs squad.
Oisin Dowling arrives from the Leinster Rugby Academy having played 6 times for the senior squad in the past two seasons. The 6’5’’ lock has also been capped at Irish U20 level.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says all four players can make significant contributions to the squad ahead of the new season.
In Sammy, Conor, Oisin and Jack we have secured the signings of four very talented and promising young Irish rugby players. They each have unique skillsets which will enhance our squad for next season and beyond, and will allow us to continue to grow as a program. We’re all looking forward to welcoming them to The Sportsground and integrating them into our playing squad.
Press Release from Irish Rugby
Glasgow Warriors & Scottish Star to retire
Glasgow Warriors centurion Ruaridh Jackson has announced that he will retire from rugby union at the end of the 2019/20 season.
The 32-year-old has made 163 appearances over two spells with the club, having made his Glasgow Warriors debut against GRAN Parma back in 2006.
Equally comfortable at fly-half and full-back, Jackson’s experience and versatility made an instant impression upon his return as his form saw him voted as the club’s Players Player of the Season at the end of his first season back with the Warriors.
His tally of 499 points makes him one of the sharpest shooters in club history, with the former Robert Gordon’s College pupil sitting fifth in the club’s all-time points charts.
A confident operator both with the boot and with ball in hand, Jackson enjoyed a dream international debut back in 2010; the replacement fly-half held his nerve to kick a last-gasp penalty against Samoa in his hometown of Aberdeen, handing Scotland a narrow victory over the Pacific Islanders.
The centurion has made 12 appearances to date for the Warriors this season, scoring a brace of tries Leinster at Scotstoun back in November.
“It has been one hell of a ride,” Jackson told glasgowwarriors.org.
“From school and mini rugby coaches, Sean Lineen giving me the opportunity to sign my first pro contract, all the other coaches, medical teams, back room staff that I have worked with throughout the years, I want to say thank you – you have all played a huge part in my career.
“I’ve been so fortunate to live out my childhood dream of playing rugby, not just professionally but for my country. It’s been a journey that has allowed me to travel the world, make some incredible friends and without doubt has given me some of the happiest days of my life.
“It is not the fairytale ending I may have dreamt about, but I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been part of my 14-year journey as it has truly been an incredible one. I have achieved more than I could ever have dreamed of, but it is now time to embrace a new challenge.”
Speaking following the announcement, Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie said: “Ruaridh is a top man whose contribution to our club has been immense.
“While most of his footy had been played at 10 historically, his impact at fullback for us over the past three seasons was impressive. He led our Creck, a group dedicated to driving our counter-attack, turnover and exit policies, where his composure and innovation created opportunities to attack from deep, whilst his ability to kick well off either foot was a real strength.
“An environmentally and community minded individual, Jacko has been a great role model for our squad regarding planning for life beyond rugby.
“We wish Ruaridh, Kirsten and their expected arrival all the best for the next stage in their lives.”
Glasgow Warriors Managing Director Nathan Bombrys said: “Ruaridh is one of our all-time great Warriors and has had an outstanding career with the club.
“In his two stints over his nine years with the Warriors he has played in some of our biggest games, finals and Semi-Finals at both fly-half and at full-back, and hangs up his boots with his name fifth in our all-time points scoring chart.
“He has always been an exciting player who gives everything he has to the club, and it was so impressive when he returned to the club in 2017 and had an outstanding season that saw him recognised as Player’s Player of the 2017/18 Season.
“Ruaridh has been such a tremendous servant to our club, on and off the field, and we hope he will stay connected to the club in the years to come.We wish Ruaridh and his wife Kirsten all the best for the next chapter in their lives.”
Press Release from Glasgow Warriors