Several of Ulster’s young Academy stock have emerged as quality players this season, but the find for the Province has been prop Eric O’Sullivan.
Given a lesson in scrummaging against Wasps in a pre-season friendly, the Dublin loosehead grasped his next opportunity against Scarlets and has not looked back having now made 24 senior appearances for the Province - from 27 games to date.
Irish National coach, Joe Schmidt has also been impressed by the 23-year-old - name checking him at an event at Christmas - something which is unheard of.
Last year he played most of his rugby with All Ireland League side Banbridge having moved to Ulster and signing an Academy contracting when he was basically overlooked for a place in the Leinster Academy.
He has made the step up with ease but admits he is still not quite comfortable playing at the current level and wants to continue to learn.
“I fell I am getting there, but I have lots to learn and I want to do that,” said O’Sullivan, speaking at a Kingspan Stadium Media event in Dublin.
The young prop has not looked out of place at this level however and his performance against Leinster in the European Champions Cup quarter-final was one of confidence.
“Coming up against Tadgh Furlong meant it was a pretty nervous week for me, but on the day I felt it went all right.
“You learn and when you have bad days, those are the ones you really learn from.
“We went poorly against Connacht down at the Sportsground that was a big learning curve for me and hopefully in a couple of weeks time I can correct that if I get the opportunity (when Ulster meet their provincial rivals in a PRO14 play-off).”
And he recalls that pre-season game at Wasps adding: “ That was a bad day at the office for me, but since then they have not been too bad.
“I think that just sort of game from playing every week. You are going up against good props every week and you are just getting that experience and the more you go without having a bad day it just sort of builds your confidence,” added O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan admitted that when the current season started his aim had been to make five senior appearances.
“That was my goal at the start of the year. I reassessed that fairly early in the year,” laughed the prop.
“It has been an incredible season for me and I have enjoyed every minute of it.”
Ulster recently confirmed the signing of British Lion, Ireland and Leinster loosehead Jack McGrath, which means O’Sullivan will have some serious competition next season.
“It is great to see that quality of a player coming in and I think it is only going to progress the group,” said O’Sullivan.
“He has impressed me as an individual. It is very exciting and I am looking forward to it.
“I will learn from him being here. He will be away with Ireland I am sure playing games there and that is where I will get my opportunities and hopefully I just keep working hard at training and get in his ears as much as I can.
“Like Marty (Moore) this season it has been great for me and hopefully it will be the same next season,” added O’Sullivan.
In terms of learning, O’Sullivan also highlights the teachings he has received from Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best.
“It just gives you a confidence when you are packing down with someone of his experience.
“You know he is going to get his stuff right you are not worrying about him, you are just worried about what you are going to do and how you can help the team there. I think that helps.
“He is in your ear as well and that helps. A big thing for me was body height, and I was getting lower.
“He would be saying at every scrum body height, get the hips lower and stuff like that as well as looking after himself he keeps you clued in as well which is very helpful.
“And while it is not intimidating, I got something wrong in training one day and I got a look and I knew not to do that again.
“He does not give out too much, but when he does you know it is serious and you have to take that forwards.
“But it is great to have someone like Rory there and we are going to miss him next year.”