Nevin Spence: Ulster rugby player

Media caption,
Chief executive Shane Logan and director of professional rugby David Humphreys pay tribute to Nevin Spence

Nevin Spence, the young Ulster Rugby star killed in a farm accident along with his father and brother, was seen as a future full Ireland international.

Born on 26 April 1990, Spence started his rugby career at Dromore High School before moving to Wallace High in Lisburn and then playing club rugby for Ballynahinch.

In his first year out of school he represented Ireland at Under 20 level and became a member of the Ulster Academy.

A talented all-round sportsman, he also represented Northern Ireland in football at youth level.

Spence made his full Ulster debut towards the end of the 2009/10 season at the age of 19, coming on as a replacement against Welsh side the Ospreys in the Magners League.

He made his first start the following week against Glasgow, playing on the wing.

It was the following season that Spence, at the age of 20, established himself in the Ulster side.

At 6ft and 15st, the County Down man was a physical centre, known for his strong running and bone-crunching tackles.

He played more than 20 games for Ulster in the 2010/11 season, scoring a superb try against Bath in the Heineken Cup and playing in the quarter-final of that competition, a game Ulster lost narrowly to eventual finalists Northampton.

Image caption,
Nevin Spence died on his family's farm in Hillsborough

At the start of 2011 he played twice for Ireland A (Wolfhounds) against Scotland and England and was also involved in training sessions will Ireland's Six Nations squad.

He also upgraded from a development to a full Ulster contract.

Spence was voted Young Player of the Year by the Irish Rugby Union Players' Association in 2011.

He was troubled by injuries in the 2011/12 season and although a regular in the squad when fit, he was kept out of the team by Paddy Wallace and Darren Cave as Ulster made it to the Heineken Cup final, which they lost to Leinster.

He did however feature as a replacement for Ireland against the Barbarians in May of this year.

The 22-year-old played his first game of the new season on Friday for Ulster Ravens against Munster A.

A committed Christian like several of his Ulster team-mates, Spence was a member of Ballynahinch Baptist Church.

Image caption,
Spence established himself in the Ulster side at the age of 20

The BBC's Jim Neilly, who has been covering Ulster and Irish rugby for 30 years, said: "At 22, he had years of rugby ahead of him."

Tragically, that career was cut short in a slurry tank accident in Hillsborough, County Down, on Saturday afternoon, in which Nevin's brother Graham and father Noel also lost their lives.

Shane Logan, Chief Executive of Ulster Rugby, said: 'I am deeply saddened by this tragic news.

"Nevin was a wonderful player but also a wonderful person. He was well liked by everyone who knew him and his loss will be deeply felt by his teammates and everyone at Ulster Rugby.

"He will be sorely missed and the thoughts of everyone involved in the game are with his family at this time."

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