‘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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Munster confirm Zebo signing
This co-funded contract will see Munster’s all-time record try-scorer return from Racing 92 and line out for his home club where he made 144 appearances and scored 60 tries between 2010 and 2018.
In his third season with the Top 14 side, the 31-year-old has played 55 times and scored 21 tries to date.
Head Coach Johann van Graan said, “The opportunity to bring Simon back to Munster came about in early April following a final review of our squad’s budgetary position for season-end and with assistance from the IRFU to support what we believe is a really good deal for Munster and Irish Rugby.
“Simon’s desire to return to Ireland and play with his home club is illustrated by his willingness to sign at a level below his market value elsewhere. This has made bringing the province’s all-time leading try-scorer back home, possible.”
Simon Zebo said, “I am thrilled and honoured to be coming back home to play for Munster. My family and I have been so lucky to have enjoyed three incredible years with Racing 92 in Paris and I cannot thank the team there enough, I really have made friends for life and take with me some brilliant memories.
“However, as everyone knows, Munster holds a very special place in my heart and I’ve always said that I wanted to play for them and potentially Ireland again, so when this opportunity arose the lure of being close to home, family and friends and Munster fans, it outweighed all other options. I cannot wait to get back to the HPC with the team and hopefully a packed Thomond Park.”
Ulster Rugby agree to release Coetzee early
Marcell Coetzee has played his last game for Ulster Rugby.
With back-row, Marcell Coetzee, currently side-lined with a hamstring injury, Ulster Rugby has agreed terms which will see the player released from the club at the end of this month, ahead of his planned departure at the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.
Given the need for several weeks of rehabilitation following the injury sustained by Coetzee in last month’s Guinness PRO14 fixture against Leinster, Ulster Rugby and the player have reached a mutual agreement to part ways on Friday 30 April.
Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment, Bryn Cunningham, said: “We have come to an agreement that will allow Marcell the time and space required to continue his rehab.
Lowry retained at 10 for Ulster v Zebre
21-year-old, Cormac Izuchukwu will make his first start for the Ulster men as he is named in the second row alongside Kieran Treadwell. Marty Moore comes back into the starting front row at tighthead, with Eric O’Sullivan and John Andrew retaining their starting berths at loosehead and hooker. Jordi Murphy will captain the side at openside flanker, with Sean Reidy and David McCann being retained at blindside and Number Eight.
A youthful back line sees Ethan McIlroy coming into the back three at full-back, with Rob Lyttle on the left wing and Robert Baloucoune returning on the right. Stewart Moore and James Hume will make up the midfield pairing, while John Cooney and Michael Lowry are named at half-back.
Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor and Matty Rea are the forward reinforcements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing the back line options on the bench.
Ulster team to play Zebre Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 16, Friday 19 March at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 8.15pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):
(15-9) Ethan McIlroy, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Michael Lowry, John Cooney;
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Cormac Izuchukwu, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordy Murphy (Capt.), David McCann.
Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.