Rising Ulster rugby star Robert Baloucoune is aiming to maintain his impressive progress when they are able to return to action.

The former Enniskillen player has caught the eye on the wing over the last two seasons and such was his form this campaign that he was called into coach Andy Farrell’s Ireland training camp in February.

The 22 year old enjoyed that experience of working with the best in the country and he would relish another chance to show what he can do.

“Hopefully I can perform and keep things going with Ulster and if that means a call up comes up for Ireland again then I would be delighted to try and take my chance.

“It (the camp) was really good. It was surreal, these are the players I would have been watching on tv and now I was training with them. From an experience point of view it was really good and it boosted my confidence. It was great just to be out there training with them,” said Baloucoune.

It is only a couple of years since Baloucoune had been playing junior rugby with Enniskillen but he has thrived since taking the step up to Ulster and he is really enjoying his time with the province.

“It has been really good and I have really been enjoying my time. It is a big jump from playing for Enniskillen a few years ago but I’ve enjoyed every part of the process that has got me here and all the players that you meet along the way. It has been a great experience.

“It is not the typical path that everyone has taken but I feel like it has been really beneficial for me in terms of the skillset and making my way through the system. I think I’ve grown as a player every step of the way and I’m enjoying my rugby and looking forward to getting back playing,” he commented.

The Fermanagh speedster also had a spell playing international Rugby Sevens which he felt was beneficial for him.

“Going from junior rugby straight into the Sevens was probably my biggest jump, but I was able to build on my skills that I needed like passing and also build on my fitness which was stuff that I needed to work on. You are put in scenarios that you wouldn’t find yourself in 15s rugby so it was good in terms of experience and just being able to get my hands on the ball and play.”

Ulster’s last game before the season was postponed and lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus crisis was a PRO 14 win over the Toyota Cheetahs at the Kingspan Stadium in February with Baloucoune among the try scorers for the home side.

Robert admits that it has been a strange time for players and while he has missed playing, he has enjoyed the down time.

“It has been a bit weird not being able to play rugby but it has meant there has been a bit of time to relax. I’ve actually enjoyed it, it is good to have a bit of a break but you do miss playing and it is hard not being able to play matches,” he said.

The hard work though has had to continue too.

“You have to keep on top of training,” he said. “It is tough to keep motivated, I would find it a lot easier when I’m training with the team because the team push you on but I have been able to do more individual stuff like working on my speed and stuff like that which I have enjoyed.

“I have a housemate who comes with me and that’s a help and I do some passing but it is hard enough because you can’t really get into the whole team situation so it is different from what you would usually do.”

The IRFU recently announced that ‘Return to Train and Play’ proposals have been submitted to Government and, based on this phased roadmap, the penultimate weekend of August has been set for the targeted resumption of Guinness PRO14 derby fixtures involving the four provinces.

Under the proposals, the Aviva Stadium will host behind closed doors Inter-provincial games as part of the completion of the 2019/20 Guinness PRO14 season on August 22 and August 23.

Whether these dates are possible remains to be seen but Baloucoune states that he is looking forward now to getting back to playing games.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back on the pitch, it is just a different buzz you get whenever you are playing and it is something to look forward to at the end of the week. You want to be out there trying to win games.

“We are not sure what is going to be going ahead but that is why everyone is keen on keeping on top of training so that when we do get back we can still perform as if we hadn’t stopped.

“It is important to keep in shape and on top of things for when that happens.

“We are all looking to get back as soon as possible and just try and keep on top of things until then,” he said.