Heineken Cup: Ulster taking one step at a time
As recently as three seasons ago, Bryan Young was a member of Ireland’s World Cup squad.
But now his sole priority is to win trophies with an Ulster side beginning to take shape.
Regarded as technically one of the best scrummaging props in the province, he hasn’t looked back since making his Ulster debut in April 2002.
Four years ago he won his first two international caps, coming on as a replacement against Australia and New Zealand.
“I’ve seen Ulster win major competitions in the past and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be an integral part of a successful Ulster XV,” he said.
“The autumn internationals haven’t really crossed my mind at all.
“I’m playing well enough but not well enough to be considered for those games.
“My priority is to keep on working at ways and means of improving my overall game and ironing out any bad habits that might just have crept in.
“The one great thing about this Ulster squad is that it’s a squad from start to finish with everyone backing each other up.
“We’re constantly scrutinising videos, discussing various aspects of our game and how best we can improve.”
The Ballymena clubman has spent more than his share of time on the bench, but now he feels ready to challenge the men in possession.
“Every player wants to start and I’m no different. It’s the hardest thing of all going through the warm up and then having to come back and sit on the bench,” he said.
“But the important thing is that when you are on the bench you have to be clued in and come on if and when required.
“It’s crucial that you are able to do that, otherwise you could miss a crucial tackle.”
He’s thrilled to have won 118 Ulster caps but at 29 he’s adamant he still has so much to offer.
Surely this has to be the season when Ulster make the breakthrough and qualify for the knock-out stages?
A double over Aironi and even losing bonus points to Bath and Biarritz away might just be enough. But so much depends on how well they pick the right man for number 10.
Ulster captain Rory Best (28) has grown tired of hearing hard luck stories and what might have been.
In many respects his views are similar to those of Bryan Young.
“I’m at a stage in my career where I want to win something meaningful,” he stressed.
“Not just a one off like the Magners League four seasons ago, but to win something that would mark our arrival on the big stage.
“That remains my goal and that’s why I didn’t sit down and sign a new two year contract without thinking it through.
“I sat down with David Humphreys and Brian McLaughlin and they told me about the calibre of player they wanted to sign.
“Had those signings not come about it would have been a very difficult decision.”
But now he senses a new winning mentality that augurs well for the weeks and months ahead