Tyrone Howe: Ulster's local heroes worth weight in gold
Complaints can often be backhanded compliments. This certainly is the case with Ulster.
‘Where are they getting their money from?’ I often hear. ‘It’s all based around the South Africans’, they whinge.
Well, yes, Ulster would not be quite the side without the foreign players, but this does a massive disservice to our home boys. Last Saturday, 11 out of the 15 starting players were Irish-qualified and the bench was almost all local.
Ulster’s success is built on several combining factors. The foreign legion have added more value than ever before and include several truly world-class players.
In addition, there is no doubt that Rory Best and Stephen Ferris both meet this last description. In the other starting positions, there are quality international players or young players soon to become internationals. It is a potent mix.
In the last few weeks, we have seen Darren Cave, Dan Tuohy and Craig Gilroy all stake their claims for inclusion on the Ireland summer tour. All three should travel.
Then you have a 20 year-old who rose to the occasion in his first Heineken Cup start in the ten jersey.
Paddy Jackson did not look at all out of place and made plenty of positive contributions around the pitch, particularly in that first half defensive effort.
Ulster is now a serious operator on the European rugby stage. We do not need to apologise for anything.