Lowry aiming to top the poll in race for number 10
Ulster's latest hot prospect Michael Lowry is likely to end a whirlwind fortnight by stating his claim to be a long-term option as the province's number 10.
With regular incumbent Billy Burns omitted from the squad against Dragons this evening, Lowry will be keen to add to some pre-season experience in the pivotal position with a switch from full-back likely at some stage.
After surviving an aerial assault against Leicester and suffering a chastening experience in Paris - including the now infamous finger-wagging from Simon Zebo - the former schoolboy star is in line to stake his claim to be Burns's back-up.
And regardless of whether he is handed the keys to number 10 tonight, in a game Ulster should win, it is where the academy star sees himself at home in years to come.
"In the long term, I want to play 10," he says. "But at the minute, I'm really happy to be playing full-back and getting on the team.
"I think it's important to have a couple of positions that you can play and it definitely helps your options.
"Playing full-back is quite new for me but playing 10, I think it helps at full-back in terms of spacing, you'll know the calls, especially in terms of back-field.
"You'll know where the full-back should be in terms of whether he's going to kick to the corner or not.
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"You have more of a freedom, a free role in attack, so it hasn't been too bad to be fair. Obviously I'm going to make mistakes with not being very experienced at it but I think it's one position I'd like to learn quite quickly.
"And you can come into that second-receiver position. You've got a bit more freedom as such. And learning from the likes of Jared Payne defensively has helped a lot playing full-back."
It also helps having Dan Soper on the coaching team given that the pair dove-tailed for a hat-trick of schools' titles with RBAI.
"He missed a lot of last year," explains Soper. "And essentially he has just about come out of schools' cup rugby.
"He played a handful of games last year and now he is playing in the top flight of European rugby. So it's been a pretty rapid rise but he is doing really well."
Ulster v Dragons,
Live, eir Sport 2, 7.55
Ulster - M Lowry; R Baloucoune, W Addison, S McCloskey, H Speight; J McPhillips, D Shanahan; E O'Sullivan, R Best (capt), M Moore; K Treadwell, I Henderson; S Reidy, J Murphy, M Coetzee. Reps: R Herring, A Warwick, T O'Toole, A O'Connor, G Jones, J Stewart, A Kernohan, C Gilroy.
Dragons - J Williams; D Howells, A Warren, J Sage, W Talbot-Davies; J Tovery, R Williams; B Harris, R Hibbard (capt), L Fairbother; M Screech, L Evans; H Taylor, N Cudd, H Keddie. Reps: R Lawrence, A Jarvis, R Bevington, J Davies, T Basham, T Knoyle, J Dixon, Z Kirchner.
Ref - M Mitrea (FIR).