Angus Kernohan, who has lined out 11 times for Ulster this season and travelled with the squad for Sunday’s win against Dragons, will return to international action this weekend as Ireland U20s take on France.
“You pretty much get a phone call telling you you’re either in Dublin or you’re in Belfast,” said the 20-year-old, who also featured for Ireland U20s last season. “There’s a hunger to play for both, obviously. You want to play for your Province and get professional experience, but playing for your country that’s a real privilege.
“I’m glad the way it has worked out this year, having that opportunity to play both. Hopefully I’ll get another opportunity in the next week or two to pull on the jersey again and do my country proud.”
It’s been a breakthrough season for the former Ballymena Academy player, who started pre-season as a member of Ulster’s sub-Academy. Since then, he has earned a place in the Abbey Insurance Academy and has been heavily involved in Ulster’s PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup campaigns.
“Doing pre-season training with the seniors, completely with the seniors, really helped me develop. It meant I was training a lot more, had more time on the field and more exposure to the coaches.
“Thanks to Jared Payne, I’ve been able to develop positionally as a player, in terms of reading the play and being able to adapt to how the opposition are playing. Also, I’ve just got more confidence now to back my ability, more confidence to take players on and hopefully express myself as well.
“With the game-time at senior level under my belt, I feel a little bit better prepared for the intensity of the U20 matches and also the atmosphere of the places we’re playing at.
“Last year, when I went to France for the first time away, I was blown away by the support. This year, I am taking it a little bit more in my stride.
“The Ireland coaches put an emphasis on players coming in and trying to increase the communication within the team and trying to lead from the front.
“Obviously, there are extremely good leaders within the squad and I just try to play my part, and be a team player. Particularly in the back-field, there has to be a lot of talk and it’s something I try to bring to the squad.”