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Best is barely missed as Herring makes a point

By Michael Sadlier

He's clearly enjoying his work these days but Rob Herring has done much more than just comfortably slot into the gap left by Rory Best's injury; the Cape Town native has also delivered some notably big performances for Ulster.

Herring has been relishing his opportunity and his work-rate over Ulster's back-to-back European thrashings of Treviso saw the 23-year-old show how much he relishes tackling to put alongside his mobility, ball-handling skills and generally accurate delivery of his other primary duties.

"I do enjoy tackling and attacking," Herring says after having consumed his lunch on the hoof.

"It's basically offering more on and around the park and as a modern hooker you have to be able to do that."

Of course, Herring knows only too well that he will ultimately be making way for Best, who could be returning soon from the broken arm he picked up against the All Blacks in November, but his mission statement is to show Mark Anscombe that he can more than adequately provide cover when required.

So far, he has been achieving that and more with his impact when arriving on the park as a replacement for Niall Annett in last week's arm-wrestle of a win over Zebre.

And with Herring being Irish-qualified – he played for Emerging Ireland over the summer – there could yet be the reward of a call-up for the Irish Wolfhounds, though such notions still seem distant on an agenda which sees Ulster's two pool-deciding European games coming up early next month.

"I'm really pleased to have got some long extended periods playing," Herring says over Best's absence which presented the unexpected opportunity to play in Europe.

"I always targeted to start one of the Heineken Cup matches and I was really happy to play in both and it was a good couple of weeks overall.

"I think the bigger games just focus you that bit more," Herring adds regarding his impressive performances.

"When you are playing around some of the guys who play in the big games all the time, you just slot in and contribute to the team."

Having to play second fiddle to Best for sizeable parts of the season meant that Herring didn't start in any of the three games played against Leinster last season but, this time, he is ready to meet the latest challenge.

"It looks like a tough place to go, but we want to go there and get the win" says Herring, who was an unused replacement for Ulster's last two visits to the RDS; last March's back-to-the-wall win and then May's PRO12 final defeat.

"If we win the Rabo games (against Leinster and Munster) it would give us the perfect momentum going into two huge European games."

And, of course, winning in Dublin would be another notable achievement in Herring's progression.

Belfast Telegraph

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