Back in April 2017 Robert Baloucoune was part of the Enniskillen team that lost out to Ballynahinch 2nd XV in the RiverRocks Towns Cup Final at Kingspan Stadium. On Friday night, 18 months on, the 21-year-old winger was back at the home of Ulster Rugby to make his senior debut for the Province versus Dragons.
This time, Baloucoune was on the winning side, as he played an impressive part in the Ulster men’s 36-18 win over the Welsh region.
After developing his game at Portora Royal School and Enniskillen RFC, plus a spell with the Ireland 7s team, the young speedster joined the Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy last season and earned his senior call-up on the back of his eye-catching performances for Ulster A in the Celtic Cup.
“I suppose it’s always a bit of a shock”, said Baloucoune when questioned about his reaction to hearing about his call up, “but I was really pleased and I couldn’t wait for it.”
“I’ve been training with the guys for quite a while and they helped me prepare well for the game so I took that confidence with me. I was really looking forward to it and I appreciated the chance to get out there. The atmosphere was great and I really enjoyed it.”
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) October 26, 2018
On Friday, Baloucoune became the fifth Ulster Academy player to earn their first senior cap this season, as Head Coach Dan McFarland continues to put his faith in the Province’s young talent. And there was a familiar voice alongside Baloucoune in the back three, with fellow Academy player Michael Lowry lined out a fullback.
“Michael’s younger than me but he just kept in my ear the whole time and settled me straight into the game.”
With eight Ulster players currently on international duty for the next month, plus the friendly versus Uruguay at Kingspan Stadium on 9th November, it is likely that it won’t be long before Baloucoune sees more action, and he’s already looking forward to the prospect.
“Friday night was a great experience and I’m looking forward to another chance at it. Once you get a taste for it, you immediately want more so I’ve just got to keep my head down and work hard, and hopefully the next opportunity won’t be too far away.”
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) October 27, 2018