As debuts go, Robert Baloucoune’s Irish one must be up there with some of the best.

The winger gained his first cap in the 71-10 drubbing of the USA at the Aviva last Saturday and it was a piece of brilliance from the 23 year old that got Ireland’s first try.

With 16 minutes played the Ulster player picked the ball up in midfield and announced his arrival on the international stage as he set off like a rocket stepping to the right to leave three US defenders for dead and touchdown in the corner.

It was the score that seemed to settle Ireland after a fractured opening and from there on they completely dominated.


While it was to be Baloucoune’s only try of the game he did play the final pass to Stuart McCloskey and whenever he got the ball in hand looked dangerous while he was also sound defensively.

His stats showed he made 159 metres, beating six defenders, from 10 carries and he also had five clean breaks.

The former Enniskillen Skins player also made three tackles, missing none.

Baloucoune was one of four Ulster men to get their international debuts last Saturday alongside Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney and James Hume.

Speaking about his debut 80 minutes in an Ireland jersey, Baloucoune admitted it was “nerve-wracking” but once he got his hands on the ball he settled in well.

“I caught a high ball and it kind of settled me into the game. I was nervous and then my second touch was the try so after that I was on a high so enjoyed every bit of the game then after that.

A training ground set-piece put the Baloucoune in space and there was no stopping him.

“The coaches had said to me a few times if I find any space just back my speed and don’t look for the pass, just try running round someone and that went well during the game.”

It was a try that gave the Fermanagh contingent who were in the Aviva Stadium plenty to shout about: “It was great to hear. Whenever I got the ball they were always screaming and I heard a few chants from the stands.

“I can’t thank everyone enough for coming down and supporting me, hopefully, I’ll get a few more caps and they can come to a few more games.”

With plenty of familiar faces on the pitch, Baloucoune felt confident with his try giving him a real boost.

“It kind of gave me a bit more confidence during the game. It was quite a bit easier during the game because there were a lot of Ulster boys and Will Addison came off the bench as well. And I was playing alongside James Hume and Stu McCloskey.

“Especially on defence. I just look to my left and I could see what I’ve been seeing all season and I was just able to do what I’m used to.”

In the lead up to the game, the plaudits came in for Baloucoune with Ireland coach Mike Catt saying he had the x-factor while other players in the squad gave him the title of fastest player.

It was nice to hear and it gave him confidence leading up to the game and settled him into a squad he admits he was surprised to be picked in.

“I hadn’t played that many games a season and because of injuries and stuff like that, I was just a wee bit cautious of what was going to happen.

“It was great to be picked. Coming into camp I was struggling a little bit just because I hadn’t trained as much as the other guys and my body was taking a wee bit of a hit but I was given a few days off, the week before that USA game and it kind of sorted myself out and I was a fresh enough then going into the USA game.”

Some rise

It is a somewhat meteoric rise for the Enniskillen winger who only four years ago was playing for the Skins in Kingspan Ravenhill in the Towns Cup.

But it’s a journey he would not change for the world.

“I’ve enjoyed every part of it. The people I’ve met along the way and different types of games and players to now playing for Ireland. I think just being able to kind of have that journey made me the player I am today and I wouldn’t change it in any way,” added Baloucoune.

And he hopes it gives others the confidence to work their way up through the club game and make it to the top.

Alongside Baloucoune another little known Fermanagh connection in the Ireland squad is that of Nick Timoney whose family hailed from the Shore Road, just outside Belleek. Timoney also managed to get on the scoresheet in a memorable day for the debutants.And to add to it all, Will Addison, whose mother is originally from the county, was introduced at halftime and impressed at full-back.