Will Addison: Ulster back does not regret fitness gamble despite Six Nations blow

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Will Addison moved to Ulster from Sale in the summer of 2018

Ulster’s Will Addison has no regrets over risking his fitness in a Champions Cup game against Bath in January even though it led to him missing Ireland’s three Six Nations matches.

Addison tore a calf in Ulster’s defeat by Clermont-Auvergne on 11 January.

The loss in France left the Irish province having to beat Bath a week later to progress to the last eight.

“I had to put myself in the frame to play in the game. I’m really happy I did,” said Addison, 27.

“Unfortunately I probably exacerbated the injury during that game and that meant a longer rehab process which impacted on my involvement in the Six Nations Championship.”

Addison’s decision to put his fitness on the line for Ulster is put in even sharper focus by the fact that he has been plagued by injury since his arrival from Sale in the summer of 2018.

Will Addison played for Ireland in the World Cup warm-up win over Wales last August but missed out on a place in the squad for the tournament in Japan

Back injury hindered World Cup selection hopes

A back injury saw him miss out on the closing stages of his first Ulster season and lose vital ground in his attempts to clinch a place in Ireland’s World Cup squad as he narrowly missed out on selection.

The former England Under-20 player was named in new Ireland coach Andy Farrell’s first Six Nations squad in January only for the calf injury to rule him out of the three games Ireland played before lockdown was announced in March.

Addison has fully recovered from the calf problem and is looking forward to resuming training in late June and to rugby action restarting in late August.

“I’m well over the calf injury. That healed pretty much when we went into lockdown,” says the four-times capped Ireland international.

“Like every rugby player, I’ve got little knocks and niggles here and there.

“I came back from my back injury so quickly last year to [try to] make the World Cup and probably didn’t pay as much attention to those things. So it’s been a really good opportunity for me to reset and try to rehab those things.”

‘Milking a dairy herd at 5.30am’

Addison spent the first nine weeks of lockdown helping out on his father’s 200-strong dairy herd farm in Cumbria and says the workload will have done his fitness no harm at all.

When it became obvious that lockdown was in prospect, Ulster coach Dan McFarland told his players, if they wished, to go back to their home areas and Addison is now very glad he heeded the advice.

“I knew my Dad might need an extra pair of hands. My sister was back from London too so it was lovely to spend some quality time with her. It was lovely for my partner to spend some time with my family as well.

“But the early starts – and having to milk a 200-strong dairy herd – were pretty tough at times. I like an early start but 5.30 in the morning is pushing it.

“Then shifting hay bales. A bit of tractor work, working on your core on a bumpy tractor is good at times. I tried to make anything I was doing on the farm fairly rugby relatable.”

Addison says playing at empty stadiums is a challenge teams will have to deal with

New Ulster two-year deal

During the lockdown period, Addison signed a two-year contract extension at Ulster, which he says was an “easy decision”.

He said: “It’s a brilliant young squad we’re working with and a really exciting young coaching group as well. It’s a really enjoyable place to be.”

Addison views the prospect of playing in empty stadiums as “another challenge” which professional players will have to adapt to.

“I’ve probably a head start to any of the rest of the Irish players in that I played the bulk of my career in front of a largely empty AJ Bell Stadium in Manchester [when I was at Sale],” he laughed.

“But we have got the challenge of playing at our very top level in front of an empty stadium in order to keep our fans happy and give them something to shout about.”



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