Belfast Telegraph

Ulster expect to win in Munster despite 2018 hammering, insists Kieran Treadwell

Crunch: Munster’s Niall Scannell and Stephen Archer tackle Kieran Treadwell of Ulster in last season’s clash at Thomond Park
Crunch: Munster’s Niall Scannell and Stephen Archer tackle Kieran Treadwell of Ulster in last season’s clash at Thomond Park

By Michael Sadlier

He was there 14 months ago when it all went so wrong.

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It was September, it was Thomond Park and Munster were pretty much fully loaded when Ulster arrived in Limerick.

What happened next was, from an Ulster point of view, entirely forgettable.

The home side had a field day, scoring nine tries and winning at a canter by 64-7. The humiliation for Ulster was complete as they left Thomond Park having taken unwanted ownership of a new record loss.

That feeling hasn't really gone away for those who were there and Kieran Treadwell had the full-on experience of chasing red shirts and watching the scoreboard continue to bring up bigger numbers than he had ever wanted to see when on the receiving end of a shoeing.

The now 24-year-old second row was benched for that trip to Munster but had to play most of the game after Iain Henderson went off injured early on. It was not a memorable occasion.

Neither was last month's 63-26 hammering handed out at the Cheetahs when Treadwell went the full 80 minutes in Bloemfontein. He definitely doesn't want to be part of another thorough rinsing on the scoreboard with the Thomond Park return beckoning on Saturday.

Treadwell would rather not be discovered reflecting on the nine-try pastings which he has been part of and, instead, he makes straight for what Ulster are intending to do when they take on Conference A leaders Munster this weekend.

"Obviously Thomond Park is a tough place to go to," says the player, who is expected to make his 78th Ulster appearance in Limerick in this season's first round of Irish derbies.

"Look, interpros are tough, and we want to be playing against the best and we want to be the best team in Ireland.

"So we need to kick it off with a win. I know it's a tough place to go but we're fully expecting to go there and win."

In terms of positive results, playing in Munster hasn't exactly brought Ulster much joy, with their last win being in May 2014 and a 24-24 draw coming in April 2018, but Treadwell is not for diluting the message.

"We'll be focusing on ourselves, that's the main thing," states the three-times capped Ireland player.

"Obviously, we've got some internationals (from the World Cup) coming back in as well. though their internationals are coming back too.

"Our guys are a bit disappointed (after the World Cup) but they're coming back and they now want to do right by Ulster.

"We're looking forward to having them back and they've fitted in seamlessly. They have brought good energy and a good vibe."

With Henderson expected to feature in some way, it sharpens the focus for Treadwell in that he is now battling with Alan O'Connor and Sam Carter for that other starting spot, with one of them missing out altogether from the matchday squad when the club skipper is available to play.

"Yeah, we all want to be involved in the squad, if you don't have that, you're in the wrong sort of sport," says Treadwell.

"We want the same thing, we all want to win, and that's even if you're in the training squad preparing everyone for the game.

"If that's going to be your role, you just want to do it to the best of your ability."

Whether he starts or is benched for the weekend, Treadwell recognises that this will be a no holds barred encounter instead of the usual regulation season interpro where one side, usually the one travelling, is never prepared to go that close to full strength.

"Yeah, I suppose it's a case of keeping the ball rolling with Europe (Ulster are at Bath) the following week so that's always in the back of your mind a little bit. But we've had two good wins (at home) and we want to keep the winning streak," he says, with the province actually having won three on the bounce when the victory at Southern Kings is added.

"We want to keep the pressure on, especially at the start of the season because we don't want to look back at the end of it all and be kicking ourselves."

Nor, indeed, do Treadwell and his team-mates want to hold any regrets this time about playing in Munster.

"It's always going to be difficult there. But it's definitely going to be a good way of getting into next week's Bath fixture if we come away with a win," he says.

Meanwhile, it's all coming together nicely for Munster.

With Stephen Larkham and Graham Rowntree now in situ, the new game-plan is beginning to take shape.

This season was always likely to be tricky given it is a World Cup year and with the coaching shake-up, but Johann van Graan is optimistic about what the future holds, even if he has warned that it will take time to fully implement the new style.

"We are improving the depth of our squad and most importantly the quality of our squad, and it's exciting times for us as a group," Van Graan enthuses.

"It all comes down to planning. We knew it was going to be a difficult season, all World Cup years are difficult.

"You don't have your players in your pre-season and we've had new coaches in, with Steve only coming in late into pre-season as well, only literally three weeks before the London Irish game, and then Graham coming in.

"We need to improve but let each guy find his feet, be open with the squad."

He adds: "I think there's been enjoyment and real growth in some of the detail, again not underestimating what we've done before because this club is built on continuity."

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