Ulster stars must earn their place, insists Doak
Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30
Ruan Pienaar and Charles Piutau were the names on everyone's lips as Ulster opened their season in Belfast on Friday, but it was a pair of rookie wingers who stole the show against Dragons.
Sure, the South African scrum-half ran it and picked up the man of the match award but it was the performances of Robert Lyttle, 19, and Jacob Stockdale, 20, that had the Kingspan Stadium crowd on their feet, scoring three tries between them.
While Lyttle crossed twice, Stockdale put himself in elite company on the Pro12 stats leaderboards, carrying for 134 metres across 15 runs and making five clean breaks.
Stockdale starred for the Ireland U-20s last season, while the diminutive Lyttle is part of this year's intake and the duo marked themselves out for further action.
No coach in Ireland has as many top-class backs to choose from as Les Kiss who will welcome Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne and Craig Gilroy back in the weeks to come but coach Neil Doak says that caps won't guarantee selection.
"It won't be a problem for us," the former scrum-half said of the selection headache. "We will pick the players on form. The guys that will be coming back in will have to fight for their place. All the young players have done brilliantly, particularly for the scores they have taken like Robert and Jacob.
"It was brilliant for them to get the exposure. The key for these younger players to get this exposure and drip-feed that so that they are more comfortable with the environment; they will then grow with that experience."
On Saturday, the northern province will look to build on their first win against the Dragons and build up to the tougher tasks to come in the weeks to come by beating Treviso.
"We've done well against them in the past," Doak said.
"We will again give them respect. The league is very competitive and if you take the eye off the ball, you will be punished."