Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Ulster Rugby's Luke Marshall wants to leave Heineken Cup pain in past

Ulster Rugby's Luke Marshall is eyeing a regular Ireland call
Ulster Rugby's Luke Marshall is eyeing a regular Ireland call

Ulster centre Luke Marshall described a feeling of disbelief within the home changing room after last Saturday night's harsh defeat by Saracens.

It was a feeling shared by many fans. In recent years, Ravenhill has become a fortress where it is difficult enough to get tries never mind escape with a victory.

With some big names leaving the club at the end of the season, 22-year-old Marshall believed Ulster had a great opportunity to win this year's Heineken Cup before their departure.

But speaking after Ulster's first training session following their disappointing exit, his mood was still positive.

"We can either sit back and feel sorry for ourselves or we can go out and try to win the Rabo," he said. "We haven't won the Rabo in its current form and losing to Leinster in the final last year was pretty hard to take.

"But we're focused and getting back on the horse."

With Ulster still to play Connacht, Leinster and Munster, Marshall spoke of the excitement this created, adding that he is looking forward to pushing his case for an Ireland jersey.

"It's always about trying to get one up on your opposite number for the Irish side so it's added motivation," is how he described inter-pro matches.

Even with some of the biggest names in European rugby missing from the Ulster line-up against Connacht this evening, Marshall was optimistic.

"We've lost five or six boys through injury but it gives guys who are probably playing second fiddle an opportunity to come in to and stake a claim," he said.

As he sees it, the fact that players are fighting for their place within the starting 15 "adds energy to training and to the game."

"It's up to us, the remaining players who are fit, to try and make the impact (of being minus so many regulars) as little as possible," he said.

"The players coming in will be a great help as they will be looking to make a claim for the jersey."

As for the departure of big personalities – skipper and lock Johann Muller, tight-head John Afoa and loose-head Tom Court – at the end of the season, Marshall admitted those will be particularly hard acts to follow.

"I think with losing guys like that you're not just losing their influence on the pitch but off the pitch as well with their leadership abilities – especially Johann," he said. "It's going to be tough. But with the belief in the squad, we can replace them and continue to play at a similar standard."

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