Paddy Wallace is thrilled to bits with Ulster’s considerable representation in the Ireland squad.
But just now his whole focus is on Ulster’s final group game away to Bath on Saturday afternoon.
Wallace (30) has come a long way since playing alongside Brian O’Driscoll and Donncha O’Callaghan on the Ireland side that won the Under-19 World Cup in France in 1998.
A member of Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam winning squad, he was educated at Mike Gibson’s old school Campbell College and has a degree in business studies and marketing from UCD.
It’s some time since Ulster still had a Heineken interest at this stage of the season and Wallace is quick to acknowledge just how Ulster rugby has moved on.
“The turnaround has been massive both in terms of results and effort.
“First and foremost we’re going to Bath with the objective of winning the tame.
“We have to win the match fist and then concern ourselves with bonus points.
“If having got ourselves into a winning position with 10 minutes left it would be great to be able to push on in search of the bonus point.
“Make no mistake Bath will be very formidable opponents, but we showed in beating Worcester that we can travel to England and win matches.”
Wallace, who began life as a number 10, has developed into a natural centre both with Ulster and Ireland. And he maintains that Ulster’s pre-season regime is central to their ongoing improvement.
“It was the most demanding pre-season training I can recall and certainly it has served us well throughout the season,” he said.
“In addition our style of play this season is something everyone can buy into.
“Everyone in the side knows exactly what their role is within the team and it’s something that serves us especially well when the pressure is really on in a tight match.”
Forever the realist Paddy readily concedes that while the team is progressing there’s still some way to go.
“The bottom line is that we’ve won nothing yet. The important thing is that we continue to keep moving up the graph and hopefully trophies will eventually come somewhere down the line.”
For a man who has been through the wars with both Ulster and Ireland he battles on bravely without a word of complaint.
But he has just one regret.
“Injuring my right ankle against South Africa has been a real pain in every sense of the word,” he says. “It’s been niggling me ever since, but at last I’m approaching full fitness though I’ve still a wee bit to go.
“Watching isn’t much fun and as a professional sportsman it’s not where you want to be.”
As players continue to come and go, Wallace makes the point that Matt Williams inherited a side that was crying out for change.
“Brian McLaughlin came in and put his own considerable stamp on things and you can sense a new determined mood in those wearing the jersey,” he said.