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We must seize chance to regain momentum, says Andrew

By Michael Sadlier

It's all just part of the game really. One player's misfortune is another's opportunity and all that.

So with Rory Best otherwise engaged at the Six Nations, and Rob Herring injured and unable to deputise, John Andrew finds himself stepping up tomorrow evening for what will only be his third start for Ulster in the must-win home game with Edinburgh.

The 23-year-old hooker knew that the Six Nations window would translate into some game-time, it's just that the Ulster 'A' skipper hadn't reckoned on being a front-line player.

"Rob not being fit is the way you get a chance. Someone picks up a knock and you have to go out and perform and do so to the best of your ability," says the Ballymena native whose older brother Ricky also played for Ulster.

Nor, indeed, had he bargained on being part of a side who have lost four straight games while also finding themselves eight points adrift of the all-important PRO12 top four.

Ulster now have a five-game block during the Six Nations with racking up big wins over sides mostly beneath them - only Glasgow Warriors sit above the province and in addition to Edinburgh tomorrow Ulster also play Treviso and face Zebre twice - being an absolute priority.

As Andrew explains: "In this block of games we're just trying to get momentum back.

"I think in those games," he adds when addressing Ulster's recent poor form in both the PRO12 and the now terminated European campaign, "there have been patches where we've played okay and then there have been patches where we've been very ordinary or worse.

"We just need to go out, get the basics right and get the win," he says ahead of his eighth Ulster cap.

He describes the three-week break in games as having allowed the squad to regroup and refresh while leaving their last outing, which resulted in a particularly disappointing home defeat to Bordeaux-Begles, firmly behind them.

"Everyone's buzzing for it (the Edinburgh game) and Marcell (Coetzee) is playing and Peter Nelson is coming back," he says.

Of course, sixth-placed Ulster's ambitions of making the PRO12 play-offs really require victory tomorrow evening and Andrew also badly wants to ensure that they avoid losing to the Scots for the second time this season after being part of the side who were turned over at Murrayfield back in November.

Though the mood about the place has been known to be more upbeat, Andrew reckons that he is still in an ideal position to learn and develop as a player thanks to the presence of Best and Herring as well as forwards coach, and former hooker, Allen Clarke.

"Rory and Rob are good with me and they'll give you little tips about throwing in to lineouts and things like that," he says.

"You can learn a lot by just watching them and what they do on the pitch.

"It's actually a good place to be as a young hooker."



Guinness PRO12:

Kingspan Stadium, Friday, 7.35pm

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