Ulster prop Kane ready to switch on scrum surge
It wasn't part of the plan to play all but 10 minutes of the game at Edinburgh, but it had to be done so Ross Kane just got on with it.
Not only that but the 24-year-old tight-head prop, now in his third season with the senior squad, helped do a job on Edinburgh's scrum which was widely expected to have had the upper hand on Ulster's front row even before Marty Moore's season-ending ankle injury forced him off after just 10 minutes of action.
It was quite a statement by the former Schools' Cup winning skipper with Methodist College who, though he has been in and out of the match day 23, has already played more games this season - Saturday will be his 14th, presuming he is involved - than in his previous two at the Kingspan since making his debut against the Dragons in September 2016.
With Moore having done most of the heavy-lifting at tight-head this season, prior to his injury, Kane has scrapped it out with Tom O'Toole and the recently departed Wiehahn Herbst to get game-time while also featuring in the AIL for promotion-chasing Malone and recently being on the Ulster 'A' trip to Boston for the Cara Cup.
Kane brings mobility and scrummaging presence to the side and his 37th Ulster appearance, on Saturday, will be another chance to enhance his growing reputation - albeit in what is expected to be a diluted Ulster squad - against what will also be a much-changed Leinster side for this 'dead rubber' final round PRO14 clash.
Both sides have far bigger issues to come, with Ulster hosting Connacht next week for their PRO14 quarter-final while Leinster have the defence of their European Champions Cup title against Saracens on May 11 before they then take their place in the PRO14 semi-final stage.
So this weekend is not only a chance for Dan McFarland's shadow side to get one over on Leinster - who have already beaten them twice this season though the Champions Cup quarter-final was by a slim margin - but also keep their momentum going ahead of the Connacht showdown.
For Kane, though, it will also be about staying clear of injury as he is one of only four frontline props who remain fit - two loose-heads and the same number of tight-heads - to see Ulster through what remains of their season with possibly Tommy O'Hagan, Peter Cooper and Callum Reid all being drafted in for this weekend.
The hour and 10 minutes he put in at Murrayfield - his first Ulster game-time since the end of February in the big win over Zebre - would hardly be the preferred option this time around, but, again, he will deal with whatever transpires.
"It was unfortunate Marty (Moore) got injured but it gave me an opportunity to get a good 70 minutes under my belt, which I don't think I've had anything close to since the Scarlets at the start of the season," he said.
Now, though, this is his chance to step up and drive Ulster's improving scrum forward.
"I think everyone gets a bit more excited when play-off games are involved," Kane states, unable to stop himself from looking ahead.
"And competition drives everyone towards performing better," he adds of having Moore around this season.
"Marty has played incredibly and it shows. He's getting the opportunities, but I think it helps us improve ourselves."
And addressing the scrums, he adds: "I think it shows on the field how much of an impact Dan (McFarland) has had taking the scrums this year.
"Just kind of small details and everyone coming together as a collective has really helped. That's been driven well by Dan and Aaron (Dundon, the soon to depart scrum coach)."
Kane was originally a loose-head but made the tricky switch when coming through the ranks of the Ulster Academy.
"It was Bryan Young (former Ulster and Ireland prop and Academy coach) who said 'you've got a good frame and size to push on at tight-head'.
"So in the next few years I just gave it a go, and here we are now. I think it was a good call."