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Possible second row ?

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Possible second row ?

Postby Rooster » Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:19 pm

Irish Examiner wrote:Northern starlet Sandford ready to take opportunity with the big boys

By Edward Newman
EVEN GUEST speaker Alex Ferguson couldn’t help but smile when James Sandford stood alongside him in the Mansion House yesterday, remarking with a smile that the 6ft 5 inch UUJ student “might do a job” for him in the centre of the Manchester United defence!

Soccer’s loss is rugby’s gain as the former Royal School, Armagh student contemplates a full time future with Ulster and Ireland. He has already figured prominently for his country, captaining Ireland Schools in 2006 and 2007, and this year the 19-year-old has graduated onto the Ireland U20 first XV. The Armagh native has greatly impressed former Ireland out half and coach, Eric Elwood, whose decision to start Sandford against Scotland last weekend resulted in the second row crossing over for a first-half try.

That 17-12 win, a second from three, puts Elwood’s men in a position to take the next step towards a possible Triple Crown against Wales Friday week.

However, Sandford has warned that they face a confident Wales side. “We’re obviously going to take each Six Nations game as it comes,” says Stanford, who is in Year One of the Ulster Academy. “There’s a confidence in the camp and we’re all getting on well, training is going well and everyone is definitely looking forward to the Wales match.

“Wales are a good side who are coming off the back of big victory over Italy. Their U19s did very well last year — they got to the semi-final of the World Cup — and many of them have moved into the U20s this year.

“We know it’s going to be a big game. It should be close,” he added.

Yesterday Sandford joined a stellar list of previous rugby awardees, prodigies who became stars of the future.

And some quicker than others, like recent winners of the prestigious gong, Luke Fitzgerald (2005) and Robert Kearney (2004), both of whom are now established at Leinster, while Kearney cannot be far off from being classed ‘an Ireland regular’ following his last two outings for Ireland.

Sandford’s height is an obvious advantage in the second row, but six months into his Academy course, the signs of bulking up for the professional era are obvious. Today, he wouldn’t look out of place for Ulster in a Magners League game. There is even a possibility he could be fast-tracked onto the senior squad with Justin Harrison’s departing to Bath at the end of this season, freeing up another place in Matt Williams’ squad.

“I’m U20 again next year. It would be unbelievable if I did get the chance and of course I’d love to take them, but I think I’ll be looking long term — maybe a year after that. I have to take it each day as it comes.”

His development is being monitored closely by Academy director, Gary Longwell, particularly in the All Ireland League where Sandford lines out regularly for Queens, currently lying third in Division three. Coached by former Ireland no 8 Brian Robinson, the Belfast University are in a strong position for promotion into Division two but face their stiffest test this season on Saturday against unbeaten, top-of-the-table side Bruff. But he sees the AIL as a wonderful breeding ground for those with aspirations of turning fully professional.

“It’s a great place to develop your game. Queens have a very young and very good side. There are other Academy members like Chris Cochrane who’s in the U20s as well, and who scored against France. The likes of David Pollack has come out of Queens rugby after two years and signed contract.”

And it won’t be long until we see Sandford signing on the dotted line either.
“That made me feel very special and underlined to me that Ulster is more than a team, it is a community and a rugby family"
Rory Best
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Re: Possible second row ?

Postby Off the Top » Fri Feb 29, 2008 10:16 am

Red Hand Hero wrote:Struggles physically sometimes in the AIL, i would be beyond surprised if he was to come into the reckoning for the senior squad.


At 19, I'm not surprised. The step up from age-group rugby to senior rugby in the front 5 is very tough.

The boy is obviously talented and he could be partnering Caldwell in 2 or 3 years time.
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Re: Possible second row ?

Postby Harold7 » Fri Feb 29, 2008 10:44 am

Red Hand Hero wrote:Struggles physically sometimes in the AIL, i would be beyond surprised if he was to come into the reckoning for the senior squad.


Do you mean surprised if he made it next year, or ever?

I wouldn't be surprised if Cochrane makes the step up sooner rather than later, but is he another Maxy?
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Re: Possible second row ?

Postby Rooster » Fri Feb 29, 2008 10:47 am

Off the Top wrote:
Red Hand Hero wrote:Struggles physically sometimes in the AIL, i would be beyond surprised if he was to come into the reckoning for the senior squad.


At 19, I'm not surprised. The step up from age-group rugby to senior rugby in the front 5 is very tough.

The boy is obviously talented and he could be partnering Caldwell in 2 or 3 years time.

Thought 19 was a bit on the young side, Caldy has only really filled out over the past year and has grown considerably since he was 19 , still good to see there is another possible player in the system.
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