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Business as usual for Ulster stalwart Wilson as he faces final curtain

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By Jonathan Bradley

Nobody has ever pulled on the Ulster jersey more times than Roger Wilson and the back-row forward admits it is yet to truly sink in that he will be doing so for a final time against Leinster on Saturday evening (5.15pm kick-off).

The 35-year-old will be making his 221st outing for the province against their southern neighbours - an incredible mark considering he spent four years in the English Premiership with Northampton - before stepping away from Kingspan Stadium for a final time this summer.

Wilson hasn't given much thought to the emotion of the occasion, expecting the reality to come only in the weeks ahead.

"It'll be the last competitive game that I have so it'll certainly be a bit different," he acknowledged.

"I wouldn't be the most emotional sort but it'll be strange.

"I think I've just been treating it as a normal game and a week or two down the line it'll hit home.

"The main thing is to try and enjoy it as much as possible and take it all in as much as you can. You have to embrace it."

With his best, and most fulfilling, years spent in England, one thing Wilson expects to rankle somewhat in his post playing days is a lack of international recognition. The former RBAI pupil did follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and two uncles by earning an Ireland cap in 2005, but no more would follow after his debut against Japan.

"I was given the excuse that I was playing abroad, and it wasn't easy to get back and available for certain camps," Wilson recalled of Declan Kidney's time in charge of the national side.

"The coaches (at Northampton) were willing to release me, it was an hour's flight away, so I think it was a poor excuse personally, but it's out of your hands.

"Maybe a few more years down the line it'll probably annoy me a fair bit.

"It's just one of those things, but on the flipside of that there are players, like Stevie Ferris, whose careers were cut short.

"So you have to look at the positives really. It's just one of those things, not the end of the world."

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