Tom O’Toole: ‘I feel privileged to be with Ulster’

When he sat down to negotiate a new two-year deal that would keep him with Ulster until the summer of 2024, Tom O’Toole says leaving his adopted home was never on his mind.

The 23-year-old Irish international represented one of the Northern Province’s most pressing pieces of business, tying the knot amid the glut of an announced contract extension in the dying coals of 2021.

In a situation where, traditionally, maturity has come a little further along the curve, the Drogheda native raised in Australia is targeting further progress during the deal.

“For me, it was a very easy decision,” O’Toole said before benching in yesterday’s Champions Cup away to Northampton.

“My agent and I were talking about it and for us, Ulster has clearly been at home since I was 16. It has given me a lot, I feel very comfortable here and I know that since How much the team has grown since I came here.

“I think it was a very easy decision for me to sign for another two years and hopefully these next two years will do well for me so that I can join that team.

“Along with my goals and hopes for international rugby with Ireland, I still want to join Andy Farrell’s group and compete there and around.

“Hopefully, now in these next few years and also at the end of this year, I want to start putting in some quality performances and give back to the club which has given me a lot.

“I don’t want to live anywhere else. There’s such a great group of people here and the coaches are fantastic, we have such a great relationship.

“Over the next few years we want to compete and win some silverware, that is our goal and there is no point in lying about it.

“This is extremely exciting for me and I am very honored and privileged to be in this club.”

A regular on the international panel and with two caps to his name, O’Toole still feels the value of learning from the likes of Rory Best over the years, but knows there’s still plenty of room to grow.

As such, he is already feeling the benefit of leveraging the experience of new teammate Duane Vermeulen.

“When I first arrived, I would always talk to Ian Henderson about what he did in the Irish camp and how he worked there. Obviously I have experience now. But Duane, who is coming from South Africa this year, who is a The huge set-piece team, which has the best scrum and maul in the world, is huge.

“You can see that mindset around the set-piece and obviously, it bodes well for me. Duane being part of the best scrum in the world it would be stupid of me not to ask questions and pick my mind about it.

“It’s been great talking to him this year.

“I’ve matured and starting to grow into a more experienced player as I progress in my career, but you never want to stop learning and stop growing.”

It will be a real fight at Franklin Gardens tomorrow, but O’Toole thinks he and his allies are getting closer to where they should be.

“Slowly but surely we are starting to feed this into games and around scrum time we want to be a little more clinical after teams.”

Decision: Ulster

Northampton—G Furbank; Scoson C, Litchfield T, Hutchinson R, Collins T; De Bigger, A. Mitchell; Waller A, Matavesi S, Hill P; D Ribbons, B Nansen; C Lodge, L Ludlam (Captain), T Harrison. Reps: J Fish, E Aykkun, E Painter, A Ratuniyarwa, A Coles, J Augustus, T James, T Freeman.

Ulster—M Lowry; R Balakoune, J Hume, S Moore, E McIlroy; B. Burns, Ann Dok; Warwick A, Herring R, Moore M; A O’Connor (captain), K Treadwell; Am Ree, N Timoney, D Vermeulen. Reps: J Andrew, E O’Sullivan, T O’Toole, S Carter, G Jones, D Shanahan, I Madigan, B Moxham.

Referee – P Broussett (France)

Northampton vs Ulster,
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