Court will give his all for Ulster in last chance saloon
Published 10/10/2013 | 09:30
He can sense there may not be many more opportunities to succeed in Europe, with the Heineken Cup's future shrouded in doubt and the fact that his 33rd birthday is firmly on the horizon.
So, for Tom Court it's all about giving everything to this European campaign just in case it proves to be the last time for the competition and for the veteran prop, should he not end up with a contract extension at Ravenhill.
Despite all that there is still a clear focus and enthusiasm for what lies ahead at the prospect of tomorrow night's opening clash with the Leicester Tigers. Court is as hungry as ever to showcase what he can do in striving to achieve a fourth consecutive year of making the last eight.
"It's the stage where you get to show yourselves against the best players in Europe and I guess with a little bit of added incentive this year is the possibility that it could be the last Heineken Cup," says the long-serving player who arrived in Ulster from his native Australia back in 2006.
"There's always more hype and excitement around and it's one of those tournaments that brings out the best in the players," says Court who then sets out a familiar mantra regarding just what needs to be done.
"It's time to really stand up," he says in his understated way.
"I think now is our time and if we're going to make it out of our pool we're going to have to be playing our very best.
"With the team and the squad we've got here I think we've been getting more and more consistent and experienced," adds the prop, who can play both sides of the scrum but now specialises on the loose-head side.
The challenge from the Tigers, the Premiership champions, at Ravenhill – regardless of the 41-7 spanking that was handed out to the English side last year – is pretty fearsome with the hugely experienced England international and British and Irish Lion Dan Cole likely to be Court's direct opponent tomorrow evening.
"Dan Cole is one of the best tight-heads in the northern hemisphere and probably the world so it's going to be a tough old ask," is how Court calls it before adding that his work-rate has been cut out recently and doesn't look likely to be tailing off any time soon.
"It's not easy for the Ulster loose-heads," he laughs, citing having been up against Lion Adam Jones at the Ospreys last week while potentially also facing Nicolas Mas next week over at Montpellier.
"But they are the guys you want to play against to test yourself against the best."
Court got four days with the Lions squad after answering their emergency call while at home on holiday in Brisbane and came off the bench against the Melbourne Rebels to get game time in the coveted red shirt.
"It will probably remain the highlight of my rugby career and I'll cherish those few days and to be there with Tommy (Bowe) and Rory (Best) was really special as well," he recalls.
"It wasn't something that I ever thought was going to happen so we'll take it as a bonus," he adds before returning to the preparation for the Tigers game.
"We've done all the hard work now," he says. "And it's just a question of trying to relax the nerves a bit. There's a little bit of excitement and a little bit of fear and it's about trying to harness it for Friday night."