Heineken Cup: Wallace homing in on keeping dreams alive
Paddy Wallace is keeping his fingers crossed that the Ravenhill roar will make all the difference when Ulster cross swords with Bath in the Heineken Cup on Saturday afternoon.
It’s a must-win for the 1999 European Cup winners and although there were doubts over the Ravenhill venue being able to beat the current cold snap Wallace is convinced Ulster can come up trumps on both counts.
“It’s a home fixture for us and I would be reluctant to give that up as home advantage counts for so much in a game of this magnitude,” he explained.
“If we’re left with no choice but to play the game at another venue so be it, but we’re pulling out all the stops to have the game played at the home of Ulster rugby.
“There’s a plan in place to have all the snow removed from the Ravenhill pitch and if the thaw that’s forecast continues we should be fine.”
Wallace believes Ulster have weathered a storm of their own after some indifferent displays threatened to derail their season.
“Bath have so much to play for having already lost at home and they will come to Ravenhill very focused on getting a victory,” he added.
“The key thing from our perspective is that we must head to Bath next week with something to play for.”
There’s a real possibility of two sides qualifying for the last eight from Pool Four and if it’s going to be Ulster they must account for Bath on two successive weekends.
Coach Brian McLaughlin hopes to have Johann Muller fit again and his only real selection is who to start in the back row.
In the past few weeks Willie Faloon has looked the part, but there’s some pretty stiff competition for places with Stephen Ferris likely to be joined by Robbie Diack along with either Chris Henry or Pedrie Wannenburg.
Bath have won just two of their last nine matches, but cautious McLaughlin refuses to read too much into that bare statistic.
“We were so disappointed last season when we played so well and still didn’t qualify, missing out by such a narrow margin,” he explained.
“Our aim is to go out and prove that we’re now a much better equipped side than 12 months ago. In losing to Biarritz we were the better side for the first 40 minutes but that in itself will never win you too many matches.”