Paddy has the power
If, at some better time in the future, the meek do indeed inherit the earth, Paddy Wallace stands to be the recipient of a sizeable chunk of said planet.
The Ulster captain’s insistence on playing down his side’s progress is glaring, though one senses it may owe more to a fear of tempting providence than to spiritual values or any altruism on his part.
Certainly he is wary lest one or two of Ulster’s less experienced players end up being swept along on the surging wave of euphoria arising from some excellent recent results.
Wallace makes it plain that he prefers it when Ulster are underdogs, operating largely undetected beneath the media’s radar and therefore capable of taking others by surprise.
“Unfancied” is an adjective with which he is comfortable when it is applied to Ulster.
That caution means there is nothing boastful about what has been achieved thus far — indeed, he stresses, “we have achieved nothing at this stage” — and certainly none with regard to tomorrow’s Heineken Cup clash with Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
He embraces — encourages, even — the popular notion of Ulster being less deserving of recognition than Leinster or Munster, for example.
“Based on results in Europe I think it’s quite right that we are perceived the way we are. We don’t have the pedigree to be given the tag of ‘outsiders’. I mean, let’s be honest, we haven’t got through in the past 10 years,” he admits.
“But I think we prefer it that we’re not written up as contenders. That’s better for us. We’d much rather get on with things quietly, without the hype or the profile. I think it’s better if we do things, almost in the background, without drawing too much attention to ourselves.
“With a young team in particular, that sort of thing can sidetrack guys. We’re aware of that, which is why Brian (McLaughlin) and Jeremy (Davidson) and Neil (Doak) do such a good job in keeping everybody’s feet on the ground.
“The defeat we suffered against the Dragons in the first Magners League match was a big wake-up call. We’d had a great pre-season so I think that when we went to Rodney Parade maybe just a wee bit of complacency had crept in.
“We’d had a very good performance and result at Worcester, so maybe we didn’t get ourselves back up to where we needed to be for the Dragons. That defeat brought us back down to earth.”
What he does admit, however, is that Ulster are going to Edinburgh “with expectation rather than hope, which is something new for us”.
“We’re in a position that we haven’t been in for a number of years in the Heineken Cup, which is good. Against that, we have to keep a lid on ourselves so that there’s no complacency creeping in.
“With all the form we’ve shown recently the one thing we don’t want is for anybody starting to think that it’s just a matter of turning out and turning it on again. That’s not how it works,” he says.
“We have to show up and perform as we can. With Edinburgh coming into this one having had three defeats against Leinster and Ospreys in the Magners League and Stade Francais in the Heineken Cup — and that one was a heavy defeat — they’re going to want to kick-start things for themselves.
“They’re at home and they will see us as opposition they can beat, regardless of form going into the match.”
But he believes there is a chink in Edinburgh’s armour and he is keen to exploit it.
“There may just be a few doubts in Edinburgh’s minds following those three defeats, so we have to try to play on that early on.
“We have to put them under pressure and hopefully be more ruthless when it comes to finishing than we were against them a Ravenhill a few weeks ago,” he says.