Tuohy sets sights on Saints
He could gently amble down the well-worn path of providing a pile of diplomatic, and hardly illuminating, thoughts but then Dan Tuohy has quite a lot to get off his chest.
So, instead, he opts for the rather less-trodden but more direct route. With it being Europe and the first of what are sure to be epic back-to-back games, which could well go a considerable distance to deciding who finishes top of Pool Four, Tuohy has the Saints in his sights and some points to prove.
“We have to live on that edge,” the 27-year-old says, with the sort of firm stare that is likely to be coming Northampton’s way.
“You’ve got to have that physical ‘playing on the edge-type’ rugby otherwise you’ll ... look, I’d rather get sin-binned for going flat out rather than not jumping in on the off-chance that you might get a sin-binning,” the Bristol native states.
He fully understands the huge physical effort which Ulster need to find for Franklin’s Gardens while also having to balance that out by staying the right side of sin-bin-friendly French referee Jerome Garces.
Talking yellow cards seems rather apt as he was binned at the Scarlets, on Sunday, just over 20 minutes after his half-time swap with Johann Muller which was designed to get Tuohy some game time after a largely inactive month at the Ireland camp which saw him get only one outing in the non-capped romp against Fiji.
“Yeah the plan was to get 40 minutes so I didn’t intend to spend 10 on the sideline,” he says, smiling at the memory of that wet evening in Llanelli which saw Ulster rack up their 12th consecutive win and, importantly for him, luckily not concede any points during his time out.
The five-time capped Ireland international — who played in all three summer Test defeats in New Zealand — knows he was probably just that bit too eager to get back to work at Ulster.
“Being in (the Irish) camp was frustrating for me,” he clearly states.
“I’m used to playing a lot of minutes in my last three years at Ulster but only playing 80 in four or five weeks was extraordinarily frustrating.”
He is certainly not the only Ulster player to have come
away from the national squad with that empty feeling, but now he clearly wants to be at the forefront of seeing off the Saints and gaining revenge for that European quarter-final defeat at Milton Keynes back in April 2011.
“I’ll be just trying to use that kind of frustration (from Ireland) on the next couple of games because the Heineken Cup is as close as you get to international rugby,” Tuohy says.
He also wants to be very much part of the remaining games in this intense segment — four Heineken Cup and three PRO12 League clashes — which concludes with the final European pool fixture away to Castres late next month.
“I am at least fresh, which is a positive, and should be more than comfortable with playing all these fixtures if I have to,” he adds.
Tuohy played when they last crossed swords with Northampton in Europe and when Ulster got their first taste of how short life could be after making it to the last eight.
He rightly feels that there is some unfinished business to be attended to and, after watching some clips of that quarter-final and getting valuable input from ex-Saint Roger Wilson – who played against Ulster that day – the notion is on him to put things right.
“Yes, there is a sense that something is lingering there and we’ll hopefully iron that out over the next two weeks.
“But I feel we have evolved since that season and we showed that last year,” says the man who will make his 76th appearance for Ulster tomorrow.
Mind you, he and his team-mates will have their work cut out with the Saints’ renowned set-piece and mauling game.
“We heard a stat that they have got penalties off 50% of their scrums,” he says, before adding, “and our front five just has to be playing at our highest level to live with them.
“But it needs to be a total unit performance because it could come down to one scrum penalty at the end that could lose or win us the game.”
And as for himself, well, he has his own personal targets.
“I like to work the game in 10-minute blocks and try and come out on top in each 10 and if there is a mistake you park it up and you move on.”
He’s ready, willing and clearly able to do battle.