Belfast Telegraph

Magners League: Paul can Marshall Ulster to victories

By Ciaran Donaghy

There is an interesting statistic in Ulster rugby that every time scrum half Paul Marshall has started this season the team is unbeaten.

Marshall has been handed the No9 shirt six times and Ulster have won five and drawn one of those games.

Three of those wins have come on the road and the Belfast Harlequin will be handed another chance to enhance that record at Thomond Park on Saturday night.

Despite his fine form this season, Marshall modestly plays down the role he has had in the victories.

“It is a stat that a few people have mentioned to me and to be honest it's nice to hear but it's a 15-man game and I'm sure I really don't make a massive difference from that point of view,” he said.

“But if I do get a chance this weekend it will really be tested because there is no harder place to go than Munster.

“If people think I'm playing well it is always a nice thing to hear but at the end of the day the coaches have to make their decision but it's however Brian (McLaughlin) picks his team.

“I need to get Brian thinking I'm playing well if I'm going to play as opposed to other people.

“It's nice to hear some encouragement but I've just got to keep my head down and just see what happens.

“It will be a very tough game — physical like Leinster was on Monday, we need to make sure as a squad we're all buying into it and we're ready to put in a good performance because if we don't we'll definitely come out second best.”

Marshall is hoping Ulster can improve on their defence as they leaked soft tries to Leinster in the opening 15 minutes.

“In the two Bath games we conceded early tries and we have made it hard for ourselves in the last few games,” he added.

“Against Bath we came back but against Leinster we gave ourselves too much to do, so it is important we get off to a good start.

“We don't want to be five or 10 points down after five minutes and we have to make sure we know we need a first big 10 to 20 minutes and get ourselves into the game.”

Marshall was part of the Ulster squad that enjoyed a five-try bonus point win at Munster two years ago and he wants the current crop of players to rekindle that spirit.

“You have got to be willing to go down and play, you can't go down there and try and hold Munster out for 80 minutes, you have to go and attack them and hopefully that will be our mindset,” he added.

Rory Best returns to the squad after being sidelined with a fractured cheekbone picked up while on Ireland duty. Declan Fitzpatrick will replace BJ Botha at tight head prop while Tom Court has been released by the Irish management.

Ulster squad: Forwards: R Diack, D Fitzpatrick, T Court, B Young, C Henry, BJ Botha, T Barker, W Faloon, R Best, J Cronin, N McComb, P Wannenburg, J Muller, A Kyriacou, R Caldwell, TJ Anderson. Backs: A D'Arcy, L Marshall, D McIlwane, P Marshall, R Pienaar, I Porter, S Danielli, T Seymour, J Smith, N Spence, I Whitten, P Jackson, P Wallace, N O'Connor.

Belfast Telegraph

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