Rugby Union

Ulster's Bill Johnston returns to face former Munster team-mates

Ulster rugby's Bill Johnston
John Flack

BILL Johnston is determined to make the most of the opportunity when he returns to Thomond Park tomorrow night but, this time, he'll be in the away dressing-room as part of the Ulster squad for the PRO14 clash with Munster.

But the 22-year-old sees it as just another game, rather than a chance to make any sort of statement, having slipped down the pecking order at his native province and moved north during the summer.

His new team-mates might see it differently, mind you, as many of them attempt to exorcise the demons of last November when Ulster fell to a record 64-7 defeat at the same venue.

Johnston believes the time was right to make the switch and he is enjoying life with Ulster, having made his home debut in the win over Zebre last weekend.

"You could look at the [Munster] squad list at the moment having JJ [Hanrahan] and Tyler [Bleyendaal] who are exceptional players," said the fly-half.

"And then you have someone like Joey Carbery who is currently recovering from his ankle injury and you look at those three names and [Munster coach] Johan [van Graan] has a tough job to keep the three of them happy never mind a fourth.

"So if you look at that maybe I just had to step to the side to go forward.

"Who knows how far that step forward will be but I've definitely felt there has been that bit more room to grow (here) and make those mistakes and learn and to just get stuck in, and this weekend is a great opportunity for me."

Johnston has been happy with his progress in his short time with Ulster but admits he is still adjusting to his new surroundings.

"It's tough moving from one end of the country to another. I'd have known quite a few of the lads but you're in pretty fresh and you're new to the environment, so going through that as a person is great." he added.

"I see it all as learning opportunities that's how I want to approach this season and I think maybe this time last year I would have rather run from an issue than go through the fire to solve it.

"So I learned things from Cheetahs and from the Kings game that I didn't even play in and I definitely learned a lot from my first home start against Zebre."

Having grown up as a Munster fan and then player, Johnston is obviously looking forward to his return, having played a dozen times in the famous red shirt.

"I started playing rugby when I was four or five and weekend trips to Thomond Park were a big part of my childhood in the wet and the rain as it always is down there," recalled the Tipperary native.

"Obviously, I've never played there as part of the opposition but it's a big stadium and a beautiful ground.

"The weather can play a part and the wind can gust down the pitch, it's the way the stands are; it often flows one way so that can have an issue for the opposition.

"But it's just a game and there are four or five points up for grabs; it's not a personal thing for me, it's going to be down to whoever is better prepared and executes the best."

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