Echo News 03.06.18

Rugby star Justin swaps south-east Essex for the States

On the charge – Justin Allen powers forward for the Houston Saber Cats

JUSTIN Allen has swapped south-east Essex for the United States to continue his blossoming rugby career.

The 22-year-old lock started the season with Southend, before making a switch to Basildon.

But the Irishman is now playing for the Houston Saber Cats in Major League Rugby.

And Allen is thoroughly enjoying the experience.

“Living out here is great,” said Allen, who was working at Woodlands School in Basildon before making the move.

“It’s a huge city, but credit to the boys because they’ve gone out of their way to make me feel welcome and I feel I’m settling in quite well both on and off the field.”

Major League Rugby is currently enjoying its first ever season and sees seven teams battling for glory with an end of season play-off eventually deciding the champions.

But Allen has already been impressed by the standard of the matches.

“I think it would be the equivalent of the King Power Championship in England,” said Allen.

“The matches have gone well so far too.

“We are still finding our rhythm a little bit but over the past few weeks we have really began to come together and our shapes and understanding has improved massively, as have our performances and consistency.”

Moving forward, the Saber Cats will soon be boosted by a new $3.2million stadium.

And Allen remains grateful for the opportunity given to him by Houston coach Justin Fitzpatrick, who played for Ireland and Ulster during his own career.

“Justin had heard of me and got in contact,” explained Allen.

“He put a deal on the table and a solid plan.

“What he put out aligned with what I am looking for.

“The opportunity to play under someone such as Justin, a European Cup winner, who has a reputation for blooding youth, was also too big of a lure for me.”

And Allen – who has previously played in New Zealand and Argentina – is keen to make the most of the chance.

“My personal goal is to work on the weakest aspects of my game and focus on them,” said Allen.

“As a team goal we are looking to win the league, get through to the play-offs and win that too. We feel we are in good standing. We have already played a league rival and produced a good performance against them.”

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