Belfast Telegraph

Court’s gamble now paying off

By Micheal McGeary

When Tom Court turned his back on Queensland Reds to join Ulster it appeared a massive gamble.

“I turned down a fairly high paid job in a managerial position,” he said.

“With hindsight it was a huge gamble and initially things went slowly and I began to have my doubts.”

But slowly things began to fall into place and last month he won his 10th Ireland cap against world champions South Africa at Lansdowne Road.

At lunchtime today the venue will be different, but the softly-spoken Court will again be a key figure in the scrum when Ulster step up their pursuit of Heineken glory at home to Bath in Ravenhill.

“Starting against the All Blacks was a dream come true for me in the Aviva Stadium,” he said.

“I then came away from the autumn internationals feeling I had learned a lot that I can put to good use in the months and years ahead.

“It’s always going to be a work in progress though and that means that I must keep putting pressure on other guys. “I suppose I’m something of a perfectionist in that you will very rarely see me coming away totally happy for there are always bits and pieces I can improve on.”

His pursuit of excellence in the front row effectively means he will continue to concentrate on increasing his work-rate around the pitch.

Playing against the All Blacks was a real eye opener for the affable Aussie who has made Belfast his home.

It was a timely reminder to Court and his Ireland colleagues that for now at least they are in a different league.

“Against the All Blacks you might stay within touching distance for the first hour, but if you slacken off they will put two or three tries on you in the last 10 or 15 minutes,” added Court.

“It’s a harsh lesson but one Ulster would do well to absorb. There are certain things that happen in games that ultimately have a huge bearing on the outcome.

“Against Biarritz we played well for 40 minutes without ever making it count on the scoreboard.

“It’s all about making possession and domination count and that applies to all sports.”

Court believes the Premiership side will initially look to its powerful, aggressive pack to lay the foundations.

But if that tactic doesn't bear fruit they will then turn to a backline with pace to burn.

And Court readily concedes he will be more than a little relieved when the game actually goes ahead at Ravenhill.

Arctic conditions earlier in the week actually cast doubts over Ravenhill’s ability to host the game.

And the last thing he wanted was the game being switched to another venue.

“The Belgium trip for the away game against Stade Francais last season was something of a nightmare,” he added.

“It’s not something any of us would want to go through again and yet everyone is a professional and if something unannounced comes up then we would just have to roll with the punches and do our best to adapt.”

It’s a game that brings together two sides heading in entirely different directions.

Ulster, boosted by a number of significant overseas signings, appear well capable of getting their Heineken campaign back on track.

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