Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Bryn is ready to add insult to injury against Edinburgh

Bryn Cunningham with Paul Steinmetz have been tasked with kickstarting Ulster's season tonight against Edinburgh at Ravenhill

It was as Bryn Cunningham raced across the pitch to cover a break by Ospreys wing Shane Williams that the Ulster full-back felt his hip go into a spasm.

Moments earlier Cunningham had received a ‘dead leg’ at the breakdown but he had tried to run it off.

“My leg just seized up and I slipped,” recalled Cunningham. Williams was left with a clear run home for what was the third of six tries in the 43-0 defeat and Cunningham limped off, with barely 30 minutes on the clock.

“I knew I had to go off because I had become a liability,” added Cunningham. “It was desperately frustrating because it was my first start of the season and we were up against it, but there was nothing else I could do.”

Ulster will be thankful the injury has not ruled him out of tonight’s Magners League clash against Edinburgh at Ravenhill (kick-off 7.30pm).

Ulster have now lost their last six Magners League games and their last victory at Ravenhill was against a second-string Munster side in April.

Ulster have also lost their last four games against Scottish opposition, including a 20-14 defeat to Edinburgh at Ravenhill last November.

For in these tough times as Ulster seek for their first win of the season after four defeats on the bounce, his experience and teak-tough spirit are priceless commodities.

A gentleman off the field, Cunningham is fiercely proud of representing Ulster.

Having battled hard to win his full-back place back after the high-profile signing of Clinton Schifcofske, as he did with the now-departed Mark Bartholomeusz, Cunningham is at one with his coach Matt Williams’ plea for greater personal responsbility.

“Over the past few seasons, the management have brought in players to improve areas where they believed could be strengthened,” added Cunningham, who is set to win his 140th cap for his province tonight.

“But I have always fought hard either to keep my place or force a switch in selection, as has happened over the last couple of weeks with Clinton moving to the wing.

“I believe I can still add to this side, if I didn’t think I could I wouldn’t want to be involved.”

His passion for retaining the No 15 jersey is admirable, and a reminder of Ulster’s glory days when the side was packed with big characters who struck fear into opposition by their sheer will-power, especially at Ravenhill.

And Cunningham believes it’s time for Ulster’s experienced players to stand up and grab the season by the scruff of the neck.

“I think there is an element of older fellas, and those who have been around the block a bit more, leading by example when the chips are down a bit and that is the situation we are in at the moment,” he added.

“The coaches h ave asked that some of those players, to take a little bit more responsiblity off the youngers guys in all aspects of the game and hopefully we can do that tonight.

“We have managed to put that horrible game last week to bed. “There were some really tough words said on Tuesday, and guys had to take it on the chin, there are certainly no excuses, it was a player responsibility issue, we let ourselves and everyone else down.

“Certainly tonight I think you are gonig to see a different level of enthusiasm, committment and physicality.”

That is not to say Cunningham is underestimating Edinburgh, who recorded a big win over the Scarlets before a disappointing defeat at Newport Gwent Dragons last weekend.

It’s just that the 30-year-old feel Ulster are finally ready to spark into life.

“Edinburgh are a good side and the thing about this league is that you cannot have a couple of bad losses and them come in again and think, right here is an easy one we can pick things up,” he added.

“It is going to be a tough game. But the key for us is to concentrate on ourselves rather than the opposition. That is important because that is where we have let ourselves down previously.

“Of the four games there were two we should have 100 per cent won and three that we could have won.

“That could have put a very different slant on where we are in the league right now. We have not played anywhere near our potential yet.

“But we know as a group that it is coming, it has to, we know from training and from each other’s ability that we are not a poor side, we are not poor individlual players – far from it – and we know if we can string things together then we will do a good job and hopefully we can put that technical aspect and mental approach together and come out with a good victory.”

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