Centre Michael Allen admits there is a danger he may lose his bearings if he returns to his home city on Friday evening in the colours of Edinburgh.
The 25-year-old Belfast boy signed for Alan Solomons’ side back in April but only made his debut at BT Murrayfield off the bench in last Friday’s win over the Dragons after suffering a shoulder injury early in pre-season. This week Edinburgh travel to Allen’s old club Ulster in the Guinness Pro12 and the player joked: “I’m sure I’ll make it into the right dressing room but when I run down the tunnel I will have to remember to run right to the away benches and not the home ones.”
Allen was delighted to finally get on the pitch for his new club for the last eight minutes of Friday’s 32-13 victory over the Welshmen and then played a club game for Hawick against Heriot’s the following day.
His shoulder is now fully recovered and he is understandably desperate to be involved in the squad that travels to Ulster this week after a less than ideal start to his Edinburgh career.
“It was pre-season in a wrestling drill during a conditioning session,” Allen explained of the injury he suffered in the summer. “It happened in the first two weeks of me being here. We tried to rehab it but it didn’t work and no progress was being made. I was still in the gym but certain positions were still weak so something had to be done and it is better now.
“I had full shoulder surgery repair. It was going to be 20 weeks but rehab went well and I made my targets every week and I was 16 weeks out – quicker than expected but it felt long.”
A former pupil of Methodist College Belfast, Allen’s peers included Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy and Paddy Jackson, who also joined Ulster’s academy straight from school.
He said: “I am still friendly with them and there have been a few text messages this week. Everybody there is excited to see me again. You don’t go six years and not become friendly with your colleagues and they become your best friends. But not for 80 minutes this weekend.”
Allen, who can also play wing but prefers No 13, made 39 appearances for Ulster from 2012, represented Emerging Ireland a couple of years ago and has aspirations to follow the likes of Jackson and Gilroy into the Test arena. “I just want to play my best rugby and if I play well I could maybe one day play for Ireland,” he said. “There is a pathway into international rugby. The main thing for me just now with my shoulder is to simply get back hitting people, getting hit, getting smashed and that will be me getting better.”
Solomons will name his team tomorrow and Allen is hoping he gets the chance to return to the Kingspan Stadium which has developed a reputation as one of the best venues in the competition. He said: “It is fantastic – 18,000 people right beside the pitch with the brass band up the back and everybody singing along to Sweet Caroline or Galway Girl and what have you. It is many players’ favourite place because of that atmosphere. Some teams may feel it is hostile but a lot of the boys here have told me it’s one of their favourite places to play.”