Tuesday 12 December 2017

'I really believe we can do big things with this team'

Disappointing spell in Scotland has former Ulster winger Rory Scholes hungry to succeed out West

Rory Scholes
Rory Scholes

Daragh Small

Rory Scholes was a sensation at underage level for Ireland and scored six tries in nine U-20 international appearances, but once he left Ulster the highlights were a little scarce on the ground.

Back in Belfast, the versatile winger was fighting for his spot against the cream of Irish and overseas talent at his native province, and despite his lack of experience, Scholes wasn't losing that battle, and his fledgling career began to flourish at Kingspan Stadium.

He played 26 times for Ulster and scored five tries in three seasons despite having to compete with the likes of internationals and Lions Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy.

But with the aim of furthering his own rugby career, Scholes sought pastures new at Edinburgh before the start of 2016-'17 and ultimately he would end up at Connacht where that process begins again for the flying winger.

"It's a set-up which suits me. The Irish way of playing and doing rugby, it suits my game," says Scholes.

"I have worked with Nigel (Carolan) before and knew his way of thinking. It has helped me in terms of the way I play. It gets the best out of me. All the signs are good so far.

"It's different in Scotland. The way they look at the game and make their decisions is different to the way things are done here. I didn't know that before I was going over. Things were going well for me in Ulster. It will hopefully get me back to playing well by being back in a similar way of thinking.

"When the opportunity came to go to Connacht I jumped at it. I am back earlier than I thought but I am happy to be back. I just need to get out on the pitch and get playing.

"Hopefully that will come and I just have to train hard and get a shot. That's always the aim but I just have to get out on the pitch first of all."

After leaving Kingspan Stadium, Scholes scored two tries in ten games for Edinburgh last season but things never clicked for him.

Scholes lives with fellow import Jarrad Butler in Galway, and they make up part of what looks like a very exciting Connacht squad for the 2017-'18 season.

The fresh look on the management side of things is another massive plus, with former Waikato Chiefs assistant coach Kieran Keane bringing his brand new ideas.

And Scholes (24) wants to push on and become central to the New Zealander's plans, so that he can push for international honours down the line.

"He started around the same time that I started but when you listen to the man you think of the players and teams that he has worked with and all the things they have done," says Scholes. 

Innovative "If you look at the Chiefs, they have so many ideas, and it shows how innovative he is. He is so smart and knowledgeable about the game. It's going to help everyone, players and coaches alike, to have him here. His way of thinking is the way they do it in New Zealand and it's brilliant. It's going to be awesome really.

"I really believe we can do big things with this team. They have changed the way Connacht have played since last year with the new regime that's out there. But the way they want us to play and they allow us to express ourselves it is brilliant. It's a breath of fresh air for us as players and for me as well. 

"It's just the way they talk about the game and they say if there is something on just play. It doesn't matter where you are on the pitch or what's happening on the game. If you see something play it and don't be afraid. The positive talk is such a good thing."

Scholes is from east Belfast and went to Campbell College. At home he lived just 15 minutes away from Connacht prop Conor Carey - now they are just two minutes away from each other in Galway.

Scholes went on to complete his Sports Science degree before leaving the Ulster academy, and after his stint in Scotland he is back in a team with Carey as his team-mate.

Things have gone full circle, and Scholes is delighted to be back in the Irish system where he can press his claims for international inclusion at senior level in time.

He looked impressive in pre-season when taking his chances in the warm-up games and now the former Ulster winger wants to back that up back in the competitive rugby ranks.

Both of his tries for Edinburgh last term came in their game against Cardiff Blues, and he did not register another try all season long.

Consistency will be a massive part of him showing that he can fulfil the potential that was there when he ran in tries against England, Italy, Australia and Fiji for the Ireland U-20s.

Connacht have missed out on the Champions Cup rugby for this season, so he will not be able to demolish defences at the highest level, but he is confident Connacht will be back, and so will he.

"Last year the boys fought very hard to get into the Champions Cup and they were there or thereabouts but just lost the play-offs.

"Kieran Keane wants to be there too, but the league didn't go as well as they would have wanted," adds Scholes. 

"I suppose it does give us a chance to go hard at it in the league and we have a big blocks of games now. We are raring to go and we have got a good few games at home as well at the start of the PRO14. Hopefully we can start winning games, get up near the top and stay there."

Irish Independent

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