Belfast Telegraph

Munster won't ease off as Ulster pursue unlikeliest of play-off places: Warwick

By Michael Sadlier

At last, a shaft of light can at least be seen when it comes to Ulster's on-field affairs.

They now have Thomond Park in their sights and go there on Saturday (5.35pm kick-off) with some propulsion after three straight wins - a feat last achieved way back in September - and, perhaps even more importantly, with something to play for in the last round of regulation games.

With fourth place in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 secured - and a likely play-off for Champions Cup rugby on the cards next month against Allen Clarke's Ospreys - Ulster can rack up at Munster and even seek some substantial improvement on their situation.

It's a long shot but, should Jono Gibbes' men claim a bonus-point win at Munster and Glasgow beat Edinburgh at Murrayfield while vitally denying them any bonus point, then Ulster would actually nab third from the Scottish capital's side and claim ownership of a PRO14 play-off place.

Not only that, but should a third-place finish come to pass, then Saturday's inter-provincial derby would be the first part of a double-header for Ulster as they would be back down in Munster again for their PRO14 knockout game.

Prop Andy Warwick knows what can be achieved but, obviously, he and his team-mates can only go after controlling their game in Limerick and then just hope that Glasgow do them a favour.

"It's good to go into this week with something to fight for, even though we have to rely on another result, but we'll be going all out," said the 27-year-old, who can play on both sides of the scrum.

In such a situation, it would only seem natural that Ulster would seek to play it fast and loose as they chase four tries.

"I'm not the man to be asking about throwing the ball about," stated Warwick before cracking a smile.

"We'll obviously not be playing sevens, we'll be going through our plays and seeing how it goes."

Then there is the issue with how up for it Munster will be in the wake of losing their Champions Cup semi-final to Racing 92 in Bordeaux last Sunday and the fact that they have already secured their PRO14 play-off.

Warwick dismisses any notion that Ulster can expect an easier evening in Limerick due to Munster's European exit and their forthcoming PRO14 knockout game.

"(Munster) will be looking to bounce back and they'll not want to go out and lose, so we're preparing for their full team anyway," insisted Warwick, who looks set to make his 94th Ulster appearance on Saturday and who impressively put in an 80-minute shift in the win at Edinburgh three weeks ago.

"We know it's going to be a very physical game."

He does, though, know what it feels like to win at Thomond Park as Warwick, then in only his fifth game for Ulster, was part of a fairly diluted side - the squad were already in the knockout stages - which came away with a shock 19-17 win back in May 2014.

"Yes, we've won one game that I've played in. I played tighthead that day and I was up against Dave Kilcoyne which was a big test as I'm not a natural tighthead," Warwick added of an occasion when Ulster last upset all the odds.

"It's always been close down there whenever I've played."

Ulster will no doubt be determined to reverse the recent trend.

Belfast Telegraph

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