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Battle-scarred Wilson is determined to raise Ulster to a higher level


On the rise: Roger Wilson takes part in a line-out as Ulster train for the clash with Treviso

On the rise: Roger Wilson takes part in a line-out as Ulster train for the clash with Treviso


On the rise: Roger Wilson takes part in a line-out as Ulster train for the clash with Treviso

You look at the scar under his chin - a nasty one shipped early in the first game of the season against the Ospreys - and wonder if that was also why Roger Wilson didn't complete that rather miserable defeat against the Scarlets.

"No, I was just playing badly," the recently-turned 34-year-old said with a smile.

And that pretty much sums it all up for Ulster when, last time out before their three-week break in games, they were seen off 22-12 at Parc y Scarlets.

There are no excuses, really, as it was a pretty miserable and error-strewn effort from the visitors, with them even managing to let go of what had looked like a sure-fire losing bonus point.

Now, though, it's time to put things right again when the World Cup-diluted Treviso rack up tomorrow evening at Kingspan (6.05pm) but, first, Wilson deals with the difficulties of currently playing in what is a notably stop-start season with said World Cup rumbling on and, naturally, taking centre stage.

"You know, it doesn't really feel like the season has actually kicked off yet," said Wilson, though the staccato structure of the campaign - Ulster have a week's break after tomorrow - is not thrown up as an excuse for what unfolded at the Scarlets.

"Everyone is focusing on the World Cup which is why I suppose everything (PRO12-wise) feels a little bit flat.

"It doesn't feel right but we, and everyone else, have just got to put that behind us and get on with it."

So, what happened over in Wales last month? The highly durable player who has spent over a decade in the professional game looks for reasons, but can't really find an adequate explanation other than the fact that Ulster just didn't turn up on the day.

"Sometimes we're not at our best when we go to Wales," he said, trying to make sense of it all.

"It's obviously a mental thing but who knows? Maybe it was also to do with going into the break. The training week was good, and we planned well for it, but on the day we turned over something like 16 balls through unforced mistakes and handling errors."

As one of the most experienced players in the squad, he is naturally looked to for some on and off-field leadership but Wilson maintains that the side is about much more than one voice demanding to be heard.

Either that or he would rather not be reminded that he has over a decade of service as a professional player both at Ulster - now in his second stint there - and a notable period spent at Northampton Saints sandwiched in between.

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"Yes, but there are a few others as well who are in the elder category and then you've also got the likes of Rob Herring (the current stand-in skipper for Rory Best) who is getting more and more opportunity to be a leader," said the back-rower, who is due to make his 184th Ulster appearance tomorrow.

"When you come up with the strategy at the start of the week for the next game they (the experienced core) are the ones who drive that.

"There's always a group of about half-a-dozen players who do that and it's as important as ever with our main leaders away at the minute."

There certainly won't be complacency post-Scarlets and, indeed, some in the squad can still recall Treviso securing a shock win in Belfast four years ago during the World Cup window. Wilson readily accepts that Ulster need to show huge improvement and make sure the Italians are not invited into the game.

"Against the Italians you have to be patient," he said.

"It can take 60 minutes to break Italian teams down and quite often it's that last 15-20 minutes that you pick up the points and you've really got to keep on it.

"On the flip side, however, sometimes you can get off to a good start against them but then they can really come back into it so it's just all about putting in an 80-minute performance.

"For us, it's just about doing the basics right."

Hopefully, this time, the plan will stick.

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