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Muller backing Ulster kids to relish big stage

By Niall Crozier

Johann Muller is looking forward to the additional responsibilities he and his fellow-imports will face when his side’s Irish internationals depart for Six Nations Championship duty.

That scenario, of course, played a big part in Ulster’s decision to enlist top players from overseas, with Muller’s comrades in arms now including fellow-Springboks Ruan Pienaar and Pedrie Wannenburg, plus former-All Blacks prop John Afoa.

Jared Payne is another New Zealander who was recruited, but having suffered an Achilles tendon rupture in what was only his third game for Ulster he will be lucky if he plays again this season.

With Payne sidelined, South African Stefan Terblanche was signed as a stop-gap replacement. His short-term contract expires at the end of this month and whether or not it is extended will hinge on Ulster’s results in their final two Heineken Cup Pool 4 fixtures against Leicester and Clermont.

Depending on how things go in those games they could make the quarter-finals and Terblanche would like to be involved beyond January 31. With Ireland boss Declan Kidney expected to call up Rory Best, Stephen Ferris, Tom Court, Andrew Trimble and possibly Paddy Wallace for the Six Nations campaign, skipper Muller knows those players will leave big gaps in terms of the ability and experience they provide.

However he believes there is sufficient quality in the Ulster squad to be able to cope and he loves leading Brian McLaughlin’s exciting crop of youngsters.

“We quite enjoy that responsibility. There’s a reason why we’re here; if others can learn from us and become better players down the line then that’s exactly what we’re here for,” Muller said.

“Whenever we lose five or six international guys obviously we feel the responsibility to stand up and even play better and make sure we lead the young guys who are coming in.”

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