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Rory Best urges Ulster to keep hold of their PRO12 fate

By Michael Sadlier

Published 14/04/2015

Good grip: Rory Best is urging Ulster to keep hold of their fate in the PRO12 play-off race
Good grip: Rory Best is urging Ulster to keep hold of their fate in the PRO12 play-off race

At least the equation is now simplifying as we approach the last three regulation games of the Guinness PRO12 season.

Third-placed Ulster are, of course, within touching distance of bagging a play-off place - they just need to see off Leinster - but, even so, there is still so much more to be striven for.

Indeed, the focus is clearly on a highly-prized finish in first or second with the dividend that will bring of a semi-final at their Kingspan fortress - where they have won all their PRO12 games this season - leaving Ulster just one outing away from a shoot-out for the title at the same venue.

Despite all the 'what ifs', for skipper Rory Best, it's quite simple really.

Ulster want to stay in control of their situation and to do so they simply must keep winning.

That starts with Leinster at the Kingspan on Friday week and then must continue by seeing off Munster, at the same venue, before heading over to current leaders Glasgow.

As run-ins go, it could hardly be much more challenging with all three opponents - though Leinster's hopes are hanging by a thread - still chasing down a top four finish.

"We wanted to get to this last phase with our destiny in our own hands and that is where it is," said Best, who put in an impressive display in his first game for Ulster since before the Six Nations in the bonus point 27-20 win at Connacht last Saturday.

"It is a very tough run-in, but you have to play everyone and beat them if you want to win the competition," he added

"We've put ourselves in a good position and we'll be confident going into Leinster as it is at home and we're also coming off the back of a good win in Connacht."

They will, though, have to deal with another two-week break after the Leinster clash, due to it being the business end of the European season.

Though this is no bad thing for purposes of recovery, it is hardly ideal for momentum or for blending back returned international players Best, Jared Payne and Tommy Bowe into match-day scenarios while also not greatly assisting in getting Chris Henry back up to speed as well.

However, some players will get some game time on Thursday when the Ulster Ravens take on Munster A at Rifle Park, Banbridge in a friendly encounter (5.00pm kick-off).

"You want to play every week," admitted Best. "And nobody wants to do these pre-season weeks in the middle of the season, and it will be frustrating sitting watching Leinster play in Sunday's European semi-final, but that is the way it is.

"We hope they do well, firstly you want guys you play with in the national team to do well and that is good for Irish rugby.

"I also think it is important for the PRO12 that we have somebody in the (European) final. But, of course, we'll be watching it with a view to beating them," he stated.

Indeed, while Ulster will not have played for just under a fortnight when Leinster arrive on April 24, the southern province will be facing the considerable burden of having to deal with two huge games in five days courtesy of their Champions Cup clash with Toulon taking place in Marseille on Sunday.

Meanwhile, further detail on the fitness of Darren Cave and Louis Ludik, Ulster's two main injury concerns from last Saturday, is likely to be known today.

Ludik is believed to have picked up a rib problem in the second half against Connacht - he worryingly fractured a rib last January in Toulon - and was withdrawn for Stuart McCloskey while Cave left the field late on with a hamstring issue which saw Ian Humphreys enter the fray.

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