Wednesday 12 December 2018

Wing Speight aiming to start long goodbye with a victory

Henry Speight of Ulster. Photo by Johan Pretorius/Sportsfile
Henry Speight of Ulster. Photo by Johan Pretorius/Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

Last Saturday, the first day of December, saw plenty of children open the first window of their advent calendar, the beginning of crossing off the days remaining until Christmas.

For Henry Speight, however, the day heralded a different sort of countdown. For this month marks the Wallaby winger's last month as an Ulster player, a reality that really hit home after the Cardiff victory.

The 30-year-old's short spell in Belfast will come to an end after the post-Christmas derby in Connacht, meaning he'll spend New Year's Eve airborne and on the way back to his native Australia, where parent club the Brumbies' pre-season will be just around the corner.

"I think over the weekend and you tick into the first days of December, it's in the back of your mind that you don't have much longer to go," he said ahead of tonight's Champions Cup encounter with Scarlets (7.45).

"The thought of it is a bit saddening in a way. I've really enjoyed being a part of this club and this province and this country, so my aim is to try and help out and contribute as much as I can and hopefully watching from afar see the boys carry on and make the province and the jersey proud."

Unusual

It's been an unusual way to spend his Super Rugby off-season, but Speight has embraced the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his club-mate Christian Leali'ifano and spend a winter at Kingspan Stadium.

"This has been a big eye-opener, I've definitely learned a lot," Speight said.

"There's quality coaching staff with Dan (McFarland) and 'Peely' (Dwayne Peel), 'Sopes' (Dan Soper) and the likes."

Ulster boss McFarland has named academy prop Eric O'Sullivan in tonight's starting team, with Rory Best and Ireland international Marty Moore completing the front-row.

Iain Henderson and Kieran Treadwell pack down in the second-row, while Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee make up a formidable back-row.

John Cooney and Billy Burns continue at nine and 10, while Will Addison has been selected in the centre to partner Stuart McCloskey.

Jacob Stockdale returns on the left wing, with Louis Ludik named at full-back and Speight on the right wing.

ULSTER - L Ludik; H Speight, W Addison, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns, J Cooney; E O'Sullivan, R Best, M Moore; I Henderson, K Treadwell; S Reidy, J Murphy, M Coetzee. Reps: R Herring, K McCall, T O'Toole, M Rea, N Timoney, D Shanahan, J McPhillips, D Cave.

Ulster v Scarlets,

Live, BT Sport, 7.45

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