Re-energised Ulster can’t wait to get started against Benetton Treviso tomorrow night.
Buoyed up by their 37-15 bonus point win over Cardiff Blues on Sunday, the quick return to action is exactly what they wanted.
The possibility of resuming where they left off means they are mad keen to get back out on the pitch.
Sunday’s win at the Cardiff City Stadium was Ulster’s biggest win outside Ireland in three and half years. You have to go all the way back to the Spring of 2007 to discover when last they produced so emphatic a score beyond Ireland’s shores.
Other than from a Border Reivers perspective there was nothing unlucky about the date Friday, April 13 that year; Ulster won 33-9 at Netherdale that night.
Yesterday when the 29-man squad to face the Italians was announced by coach Brian McLaughlin the mood at Newforge was decidedly upbeat.
Training has gone well and with the starting line-up and replacements bring named today the expectation was that those who did such an impressive job in Sunday’s second half demolition of Cardiff would be rewarded for their heroics. South African pair Johann Muller (shoulder) and Robbie Diack (ankle) are out, with the respective replacements who came off the bench in Cardiff — Tim Barker and Willie Faloon — expected to be retained.
Bryan Young is in line for a start at loosehead, too. One change, however, should see Darren Cave return to the fray for provided he comes through a rigorous work-out and is deemed fit to resume, he will play some part in midfield alongside Ian Whitten whose defence against Cardiff was exemplary.
Lock Dan Tuohy, who had by far the best game to date of his injury-disrupted season, will partner Barker in the second row, the latter having performed magnificently after being pitched in to replace Muller.
Tuohy said: “It was nice to get back out on Sunday. It was a big game for me after what has been a pretty stop-start season so far.
“I was asked to step up when Johann went off after 30-odd minutes and it was pleasing just to have been able to do that.
“But it was a great performance by everyone really.
“The boys really got it together in the second half. I think it was all just down to pure hard work.
“We’ve probably been lacking a bit of composure in the green zone and not turning possession into points as a result.
“Maybe Sunday wasn’t all down to putting that right given that there were a few breakaway scores due to individual brilliance, but I think in general that we just managed to put pressure on and on this occasion were able to finish.”
Now he is hoping to see Ulster carry that form into tomorrow night’s game in Treviso where he is expecting to encounter typically hard Italians whose game is built on firm forwards-dependent foundations in the form of a solid scrum, a very good line-out and good mauling.
“They’re new this year to the league but their home record is fantastic; they’ve only lost one game and that was to Cardiff,” he said.
“They have big players at eight, 10 and 15 who control things so we’re expecting a very direct performance from them and that’s something we’ll have to meet head-on.
“We know they’ll be no push-over; they’re the more established of the two new Italian sides and their results prove they can play, especially at home.”