Heineken Cup: Paddy Wallace delighted to be in deep end
Paddy Wallace admits it is a huge relief finally to be part of an Ulster side swimming in the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup after so many years of failing to progress beyond the learner pool.
The 26-times-capped Irish international centre had begun to fear it might never happen. He will be 32 on August 27 after all.
“It's a relief. You set these goals every year and they’re not set lightly at the start of the season because you want to believe you’re capable of reaching them. It’s just been nice to finally reach one of these goals,” he said.
“For the last couple of weeks now with Ulster every match has had a bit of knock-out feel to it with the Magners League qualifiers so we’ve developed a bit of a cup mentality going into this game. Hopefully that will be good for us.”
In acknowledging that the Northampton backs pose a real threat, he takes comfort from the fact that Ulster have a fair idea of what to expect and have prepared accordingly.
“At least you know what’s coming — two very physical centres who’ll look to target myself and Ian and Nevin so you can psyche yourself mentally for that and prepare.
“And then it’s a case of their back three — their sports cars at the back who are able to carve you up — and trying to negate the threat they pose.
“So we’re well aware of the threat — we know it’s going to be a tough day at the office.”
Five tries against London Wasps and eight against Sale Sharks last Sunday suggest Northampton have run into form at just the right moment.
That said, Wallace is more than happy with the way Ulster have shaped up this season.
“It’s a new Ulster squad and the nucleus that the management have brought in terms of their recruitment has been different and of a really high standard,” he said.
“That has been a big difference in us improving, winning more games and being in this quarter-final. Add to that the youth that’s coming through; the Academy system has really improved Ulster as a squad and as a group of players.”
Expectations of the stadium:mk showdown?
“We’re eighth seeds, they’re number one seeds so I’d say there’s more pressure on them to win. We’re just happy to be here,” Wallace admitted.