Ulster face three consecutive home games in the next three weeks which could make or break their season both domestically and in Europe.
Munster visit Ravenhill on Saturday night, Tommy Bowe’s Ospreys the following Friday before a vital crunch game against Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup.
Ulster lost their last league game at home to Glasgow but beat Stade Francais at Ravenhill and assistant coach Neil Doak is hoping Ulster can turn the Belfast venue into a fortress for the rest of the season starting with a victory over Munster.
The defending Magners League champions are starting to flex their muscles in the league and have moved up to fourth following a bonus point win over Connacht but they are likely to be without a number of Irish internationals for the trip to Belfast.
“With Paddy (Wallace), Andrew (Trimble), Tom (Court) and Stephen (Ferris) coming back into the squad hopefully we can build on the Leinster performance and get a good show against Munster,” said Doak.
“Munster have got themselves back on track with two great results against Perpignan and they are a very good side whether they’re playing at home or away and they won’t be daunted by coming to Ulster considering they went to Perpignan and got a great result.
“It’s vital that we win our home games so we try and get that solid platform at home so we’re nearly guaranteed to win at home like most other teams and if we can get a few victories on the road that’s how you build up confidence and points in the league,” added the former scrum half.
“We have two massive games coming up but they are all big games for us. In our development we looked for consistency at the start of the year.
“We’ve tried to eradicate our lack of consistency but it has come back to bite us a few times this year. The next few weeks are huge. We’ve Munster, then the Ospreys and two European games so it’s a massive period leading up to the Six Nations.
“We’ve got to make sure we get two solid performances in the next two home games. Hopefully we can get two wins and build from there going into the European games and try to get as much out of them as possible and at least get a Challenge Cup place.
“If Edinburgh can do us a favour we could maybe sneak into the knock-out stages of the Heineken so it’s still all to play for,” reasoned Doak.
On Boxing Day at the RDS, Ulster had the likes of Jamie Smith and Johnny Shiels playing and both have benefited from playing with the Ravens.
Doak believes the new British and Irish Cup competition is helping young players.
“We have said for the last couple years that any team structure or Ravens structure would be key to giving the next flight of young players the opportunity to raise their game and play against better opposition.
“Jamie Smith looked composed against Leinster and the Ravens games have probably given him that added exposure where he didn’t feel too out of sorts,” concluded Doak.