Henry Speight: Australian star believes Pro14 deserves more credit

Henry Speight
Speight has scored two tries in five appearances for Ulster

Australian international Henry Speight says the Pro14 deserves greater recognition as a "world-class" league.

The 30-year-old back joined Ulster on a short-term contract in the summer and has so far made five appearances.

"There's not enough credit given to the Pro14 because the standard is right up there," said Speight.

"I remember the first two games of the season, I was blowing. It was just equally as exhausting as a Super Rugby game if not more so."

Speight's move mirrors that of former Brumbies teammate Christian Leali'ifano, who played for Ulster during the first half of last season.

"There was a chance of coming here or staying in [Brumbies] camp and pushing for Wallabies selection for the Rugby Championship," said Speight, who will return to Australia at the end of the year.

"I have really thoroughly enjoyed my time so far. My girlfriend and I both feel that we have made the right decision."

An exciting time of change and transition

Speight was the experienced figure in Ulster's back three as the province secured their first bonus-point win of the season against Dragons.

Full-back Michael Lowry, 20, and wing Robert Baloucoune, 21, both started at Kingspan Stadium to continue the early-season theme of Ulster promoting academy players into the senior squad.

"I am coming in a time of change and transition. It is an exciting time for the province," added Speight, who has been capped 19 times by the Wallabies.

"Seeing guys like Michael Lowry, who would be lucky to be tipping 70kg, throwing his body around is amazing; he is a brave kid. It is energising for a person like me to be playing in a backfield with two young players with so much talent."

Speight and Leali'ifano were teammates at Super Rugby side Brumbies
Speight and Leali'ifano were teammates at Super Rugby side Brumbies

During his short stint in Belfast, Leali'ifano became a popular figure at the Kingspan before returning to Australia to rejoin the Brumbies in January.

"As I was contemplating moving over, he was the last person I talked to," Speight revealed.

"He basically had no bad words to say about Ulster."

With eight Ulster players on Ireland international duty for the duration of November, Speight's experience and versatility will become even more significant in Dan McFarland's new-look squad.

The province face away fixtures against Benetton and last season's beaten finalists Scarlets in the next month.