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Tyrone Howe: Ulster must send clear message to Munster

On Easter Sunday, when Ulster play Munster in the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup, many aspects of their rugby ability will face thorough examination.

One additional quality to be tested will be character.

If the away victory in Treviso at the weekend proved anything, it showed that the team has an ability to play right to the final whistle and to never stop believing in itself.

We already saw evidence of this in the team’s performance away to Clermont, but a reminder does absolutely no harm at all.

The rugby may not have been of the highest quality, but a shot of confidence is a good thing.

Now, with Aironi up next, the objectives are twofold – the immediate RaboDirect PRO 12 points tally and also preparation for the Heineken Cup.

The scenario in the RaboDirect PRO 12 remains unchanged. It couldn’t be much closer and every point is vital.

In the remaining matches, plenty of sides in the running for a top four finish will face each other, so you have to take points whenever they are available.

While Aironi did actually overcome Munster over in Italy only a few weeks ago, I have no doubts that Ulster will not let them off the hook.

A bonus point victory would clearly be ideal, but you cannot take the pitch with that exclusive aim. It is all about performance.

This is what makes Friday night so important. Brian McLaughlin’s men have proved their character, but they now have to get together and prove their rugby-playing ability.

In Thomond Park, Munster have the ultimate dress rehearsal against rivals, Leinster.

I have no doubts that this will be a no-holds barred encounter with the intensity of a top class Heineken Cup game.

Ulster cannot get this same preparation, but the players can put on an emphatic display which sends out a strong, clear message for the following weekend.

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