Andrew Trimble enjoys deserved run with Ireland
With the countdown to Ireland's Six Nations date with England at Twickenham on Saturday under way, Ulster's Tom Court is delighted that a number of his Ravenhill team-mates are making their presence felt in Joe Schmidt's team.
The opening two matches of this season's championship have seen seven northerners feature. Rory Best, Dan Tuohy, Chris Henry, Luke Marshall and Andrew Trimble started against Scotland, with Paddy Jackson and Iain Henderson joining the battle from the bench.
Against Wales, Best, Henry and Trimble again started while Jackson and Tuohy were deployed as replacements.
Alas, Tuohy broke his arm 10 minutes after taking over from captain Paul O'Connell, but other than that it has been a very good series for the Ulster representatives to date.
Lauding the contributions of the Ulster trio to have started both matches, 32 times-capped loose-head Court said: "They are doing brilliantly.
"Chris has shown his worth by doing what he has been doing for Ulster for years. I think the Irish back row looks the most balanced it has looked for a long time – probably from the days when David Wallace was there and you had a proper seven doing the job rather than trying to put a six into a seven's role.
"Rory has just kicked on again. He's really standing up and showing why he is the number one hooker in Ireland – and has been for a long time."
But his warmest words were for Trimble, with whom he can identify.
"Andrew's the one guy who has really stood up to all the critics. We knew what he can do; now he's showing them," Court said.
"With Andrew it's just a matter of confidence and there I can sympathise with him because when you're in and then out, you always feel you're the first guy they're going to be gunning for to try and get you out of the team.
"It almost seems that they're looking for excuses to get you out of there and to get other guys in, so for him to know that not only was he starting, but that he was starting a couple of games in a row, has been massive for his confidence.
"That has allowed him to get a bit of consistency and rhythm into his game and he has been able to show why he has been so highly rated in Ulster for such a long time.
"He's now got 52 caps for Ireland. Now you compare that to a guy like Isaac Boss who has been around for a long time and is sitting at around 20.
"So despite not really having had a run of games, Andrew has played for Ireland 52 times and that's a massive achievement. He's still only 29, so it's great to see him doing so well – putting himself and his personality into the game and using the aggression and physicality he shows for us week in, week out.
"You can just see that he has started to settle into the role again. He's feeling comfortable and because he is he's just playing his normal game.
"In the past he has probably felt under pressure to live up to some expectations that were unrealistic, or to play like somebody else, which just didn't suit him.
"But I think Ireland's new format and game plan suits him. If you look at the guys Joe has got playing on the wings, he goes for consistent, physical, hard-working wingers and back three players.
"Rather than having somebody who's maybe a bit more flashy but a bit more inconsistent, he's got guys he knows he can rely on to be there and impose themselves as a physical presence rather than just being able to run around people and maybe create something out of nothing once in a while.
"Andrew gives him that, so it's really positive to see him getting his reward."