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Roger deserves recognition for his great service

By Jonathan Bradley

There are times you'd almost think that to get a true appreciation for just how good a career Roger Wilson has had, you'd need to ask a Northampton fan.

The man who plays his last professional game for Ulster against the Barbarians tonight (7.30pm kick-off) has made more appearances for his native province than any other player but it can feel like he has been under-appreciated in his homeland compared to his status across the water.

With the seemingly indestructible nature of Jamie Heaslip meaning there haven't been many caps going spare for Irish No.8s over the years, the former RBAI pupil made his only Test outing against Japan in 2005.

In any other era, though, that number could have been much higher with Wilson plenty good enough for the international arena during his peak years, even if they were largely spent in the Aviva Premiership.

Driven, durable and never afraid of the dirty work, he was everything you want in a back-rower but it was the Saints that saw his very best.

A hugely popular figure at Franklin's Gardens, Wilson was able to pick up a few pieces of silverware there, the Challenge and LV Cups, but the biggest honours eluded him, most frustratingly when Leinster came back from a seemingly insurmountable half-time deficit to claim the 2011 Heineken Cup.

Having returned home in 2012, after winning the Celtic League in his first spell, he wasn't able to add any more medals to his collection when back at Kingspan Stadium.

And while it would be wrong to say that Wilson retired with a whimper, especially after his try-scoring, man of the match showing against Leinster in his final competitive game, there is no denying he didn't play as much as he would have liked in this farewell season.

Again, perhaps his bit-part role over the past two seasons has clouded the memory somewhat.

But make no mistake, his was a great career of service that should be remembered as such in the years to come.

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