Ulster captain Johann Muller has fired the opening salvo in the pre-Heineken Cup final phony war by warning Leinster that his side aren’t going to Twickenham to make up the numbers.
The Irish neighbours square up on Saturday evening (5pm), with Leinster — the holders and now chasing a third Heineken Cup in four years — installed as clear favourites with the bookmakers.
With a number of Dublin-based journalists and broadcasters present at Tuesday’s Ulster squad announcement at Newforge, the 6ft 7ins South African lock seized the opportunity to start the mind-games.
“There is probably a little bit more pressure on them than on us. They are overwhelming favourites and we almost don’t have anything to lose,” he said.
“That’s probably what the public and the media will think.”
But just when Leinster might have been starting to feel pretty smug, Muller — who captained the Springboks against the All Blacks in 2007 — changed direction by saying: “But from our point of view, as a group of players and as coaching staff, we’ve got one goal and one goal only and that is to go to Twickenham on Saturday and win.
“It’s not to make up the numbers, it’s not that we’re happy to be playing in a final. That’s a good achievement but we haven’t won anything yet.
- Ulster’s Chris Henry, Dan Tuohy, Declan Fitzpatrick, Craig Girloy, Darren Cave, Paul Marshall and Nevin Spence have been included in the Irish squad to face the Barbarians in Gloucester on May 29.
They join Ulster colleagues Rory Best, Stephen Ferris, Tom Court, Paddy Wallace and Andrew Trimble.
Ferris and Ravenhill team-mate Ruan Pienaar have, incidentally, been shortlisted for European Player of the Year, along with Rob Kearney and Jonny Sexton from Saturday’s opponents Leinester. Jonny Wilkinson is the only other nominee for the gong claimed by Sean O'Brien last season.