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Ex-Ireland skipper tips 'hard to miss' rookie for 2025 Lions tour

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Former Ireland skipper Willie Anderson has predicted rookie winger Robert Baloucoune will feature on the Lions tour to Australia in four years’ time after making his Test level debut for Andy Farrell in the July win over the USA in Dublin. The recently turned 24-year-old was a try-scorer on his international debut and Anderson, who worked with Baloucoune in the Ulster academy, is anticipating great things from the Irish prospect in the years to come. 


It was only at the age of 15 that Enniskillen native Baloucoune first took up rugby after initially growing up only interested in football but he has since gone on to establish himself under Dan McFarland at Ulster, scoring 15 tries in 29 appearances, a strike rate that has convinced Anderson we will see the recent Ireland call-up go on to play for the Lions in Australia in 2025.

“It was energising working with so much talent in Ulster,” explained the 66-year-old Anderson, who retired last year following a stellar rugby career that included 27 appearances as an Ireland player before coaching at Dungannon, London Irish, Leinster, Scotland and his native Ulster. 

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Anderson, who infamously charged into a 1989 All Blacks haka led by Buck Shelford and was arrested by the Argentine military junta in 1980 for taking a flag, has reflected on his life and times in Crossing The Line, a Reach Sport autobiography brilliantly written in conjunction with Brendan Fanning.

Looking back at his recent four years working in the Ulster academy set-up, Anderson wrote: “Robert Baloucoune was hard to miss. I christened him The Cat: he was so laid back he could curl up and have a snooze whenever it suited him.

“But Jeepers, when he woke up! Already an Ireland player, I think Robert will be a candidate for the Lions tour to Australia in 2025. We had lads from vastly different backgrounds. James Hume came through the front door of Ulster schools with RBAI and is a fine prospect. Tom O’Toole came to us via Australia and brought lots of potential with him. 

“Over my desk in the Ulster office I had a chart with four categories: at the top was Warrior, at the bottom was W***er, in the middle were Waverers and Winners. I enjoyed people asking me what box they ticked. I especially enjoyed that the smallest man in the squad, Michael Lowry, was unquestionably at the top of the tree. It’s not often you come across someone who can combine modesty with talent and assertiveness, but Michael is that man.”   



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