Ulster star Robert Baloucoune is hoping to put his injury nightmares behind him and get back to action in the closing weeks of the season.

It has been a frustrating time for the Fermanagh man with injuries having ruled him out of Ulster’s season, to date.

He suffered a severe hamstring injury back in August and when he looked set to return, he then picked up an ankle problem which set him back a further five weeks.

However, he is now back in training and keen to get some game time under his belt before the end of the season.

“That’s the plan – I’m seeing how training goes at the minute, and it has been going well so, obviously, I’m looking to build my fitness up and get back into the mix because I’ve been out for that long. Hopefully, it won’t be too long and I’m feeling the best I’ve been since I’ve been back.

“We have five [PRO-14] games left as well as the Rainbow Cup if it goes ahead, which would be good. If I can get back and get in the mix it would be great, and something that I’m aiming for.

“My main aim is to get a game under my belt as soon as possible. It is completely different, playing a game to training, so if I can do that as early as possible and get back into the swing of things, that’s what I want to try and do,” said the former Enniskillen player.

Baloucoune had been hoping to build on an impressive start to his Ulster career when the action resumed in the Autumn last year, following a break due to Covid-19.

However, a serious hamstring injury left him facing a long spell on the sidelines.

“I had a grade-three tear in my hamstring during a practise game a week before the Connacht game.

“I had been training all during lockdown by myself, and then in small groups with the squad, and it was probably more annoying because it was so close to the games starting up again. That’s rugby though, and you can’t do anything about it,” he added.

And he admits that progress was slow at the start of his recovery.


“Individual rehab was quite tough at the start, because it was slow and I had to wait for my hamstring to heal a wee bit before I could do any work on it. I found that frustrating at the start.

“It has been longer than expected, and it was quite a tough time especially as it was quite a serious injury and it was quite hard at the start getting back in, as it was quite slow to heal.

“It has been a long road, but there were other boys that were also injured that I was training with and I was able to do skills and drills with them,” he said.

It had appeared that Robert was due to return to action in early January, but he had a setback with an ankle issue on this occasion.

“I think about five or six weeks ago, I was meant to be playing an A game, and I had been training a couple of weeks. I just took a bad turn and my ankle gave way, so I did syndesmosis [injury] in my ankle.

“After getting myself back fit and running, this was frustrating, but it wasn’t too bad – I didn’t need surgery on it – and I’m training and running again now, and hopefully I can stay fit.

“I’m hoping that’s me for a while now, and my main aim is now to just try and stay fit.

“I have done a lot of rehab and I just want to keep my body as fit as possible and avoid those injuries.”

He is enjoying being back within the group training: “I was training the other day and it was sunny and I was enjoying it, so I felt better.

“Rugby is completely different when you are training with the squad; I’m getting used to getting back to training with the full squad, that’s nice,” he stated.

The flying winger has also committed his future to Ulster, having agreed a two-year deal with the province, and he is delighted to be staying on.

“After my long-term injury it was refreshing mentally because I hadn’t played, so it plays on your mind a bit.

“It was really nice to get that contract signed and I suppose I now have two years to try and make the most of it and, hopefully, we can push as a team because we are playing well. In the next two years we should be playing for silverware, and hopefully win something,” he added.

A chance

And the Ulster man is hoping that if he can recapture the form that he showed pre-injury, then he will get a chance with the international set-up, having been one of four development players included in Andy Farrell‘s Ireland squad for the pre-Six Nations training camp in Portugal last year.

“I suppose I played with boys in the sevens like Shane Daly and Hugo Kennan, and I loved the time I had in Portugal with the squad.

“I’m just hoping that I can go back to the performances I had before I got injured and, hopefully, that puts my name in the mix again for the Ireland squad,” he said.