Belfast Telegraph

Time has come for Ulster Rugby to get across the line and land glittering prizes: Wilson

By Michael Sadlier

"we're in a great position and we don't want to squander that," is Roger Wilson's take on where Ulster currently find themselves regarding making the Heineken Cup quarter-finals for the fourth year in a row.

The 32-year-old former Northampton Saints stalwart – who is in his second stint at Ulster – has been round many corners in his long playing career, but you can't help but feel that now pretty much has to be Wilson's time if he is to taste tangible success again with his home province nearly eight years after being around for the last time Ulster got their hands on a trophy.

"When you look at Munster and Leinster, they were knocking on the door and had a few setbacks before they actually went and won the Heineken Cup," the number eight, who has also recently been deployed at flanker, says without specifically referring to the 2011 final when Leinster won their second European title by dramatically overhauling a 22-6 half-time deficit to shatter the hopes of Wilson and his Saints' team-mates.

"We did well last year, and the year before (when Ulster were badly beaten in the final by Leinster) but we're getting there.

"We're (regularly) getting out of the group stages and that's great," Wilson says before setting out the crux of the matter.

"But there comes a stage when you have to eventually push on and win it if you talk about being the team you want to be.

"So hopefully this could be the year," the one-time capped Ireland international says.

He's had a good run of games now behind him thanks to Nick Williams' injury issues, though, having said that, Wilson has also had his own problems of late which necessitated him wearing a protective boot after having played games.

"I broke my toe in the Leicester game at the end of October," he says with a smile.

"But it's been all right, it's only my baby toe. After games I would put that on (the protective boot) to get weight off it and give it time to heal.

"It sounds worse than it is, it's just been a bit uncomfortable at training but I've managed the injury and it's cleared up now.

"When we had that two weeks off (in November) I took the weight off my feet so it's okay now and not a big issue."

Another area which gets attention is the feeling that beating Montpellier – who have nothing but pride to play for – is simply guaranteed for the only side with four wins to their name after as many rounds in Europe.

Not so, says Wilson who also goes out of his way to dismiss the notion that thoughts have already turned to Ulster's final pool game at Welford Road next week.

"With the French you never really know how they will react," says the player who won the then Celtic League with Ulster back in 2006 – their last successful tilt at winning silverware.

"All we can do is focus on ourselves and make sure the first 15-20 minutes is big for us and we can bring intensity to it and hopefully we can put a bit of doubt in their minds and they'll then know that they've got nothing to play for.

"I think a lot of people are (already) talking about the week after and how that's going to be the decider (at Leicester who are expected to see off Treviso on Saturday) but if you start thinking like that you get turned over.

"The real danger is to think this is just a box-ticking exercise ahead of next week. We have to make sure our mentality is right (against Montpellier) and that it's right from the start for those first 20 minutes," says Wilson.

The general mantra regarding last week's 29-19 victory over PRO12 leaders Munster at Ravenhill – which followed on from the poor showing at Leinster – was that it proved a more than useful indicator of the intensity that will accompany two vital weekends of European activity.

But, for Wilson and his fellow forwards, the concession of two tries off lineout mauls was simply not acceptable.

"We've talked quite a bit about it," he admits.

"The forwards sat down and there were a lot of technical issues but a lot of it is down to your mindset, aggression and attitude you bring to those areas of the game.

"It wasn't up to standard and we've done a bit on that this week."

Belfast Telegraph


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