Belfast Telegraph

We're fired up for our return to Thomond: Marshall

Revenge mission: Luke Marshall has revealed the thumping at Thomond Park has already been discussed
Revenge mission: Luke Marshall has revealed the thumping at Thomond Park has already been discussed

By Michael Sadlier

Afterwards, even though there was another win to be celebrated, an early reminder was being thrown the Ulster squad's way of what comes next.

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Munster. Away. As Luke Marshall revealed, Dan McFarland put it out there to the players as they sat in the changing room following last Friday night's 22-7 victory over Zebre and thorough drenching at Kingspan Stadium.

September of last year was when the province were felled by a record defeat when being pummelled 64-7 down in Limerick. They coughed up nine tries, which was equalled in last month's 63-26 garrotting at the Cheetahs.

Two games, just over a year apart, which have left deep scars. The players and coaching staff are determined to show up this time at Thomond Park to not only lay down a marker regarding what happened last time but also avoid two horribly heavy defeats falling in close proximity to each other after what happened in South Africa.

There is also, of course, the more pressing issue of winning another game to keep Ulster second in Conference A and putting in some groundwork for next week's European opener at Bath.

"Last season is definitely one that we'd like to forget," said Marshall of the Munster experience, though he wasn't part of it due to injury.

"Dan's already mentioned last season in the changing room and we definitely owe them one.

"Even for our own pride we need to put in a better shift than we did last year down there.

"I'm sure they'll be well up for it and I'm sure they'll get a few internationals back in the fold, so we're looking forward to it."

Ulster could also be seeing some of Iain Henderson, Jacob Stockdale and Jordi Murphy if all three are without any physical issues from Ireland's hugely disappointing World Cup.

At last then, an inter-provincial with real bite seems to beckon.

As for Marshall, he has started all five of Ulster's Guinness PRO14 outings, and while there have been fitness issues with fellow centres Stuart McCloskey and James Hume, the 129-times-capped player has been in notably good form after missing most of last season through injury.

"I feel good," he said after securing a thoroughly deserved man of the match award last Friday.

"It's possibly as sharp as I've felt since I was a youngster and I'm enjoying the season so far.

"For me, it's about keeping fit and playing at the same level. Obviously we've had a few injuries so we need everyone as fit as we can."

The 11-times-capped Ireland international produced one of the few moments of sparkle from the non-bonus-point win over Zebre when he created Dave Shanahan's 20th-minute try.

Having collected Marcell Coetzee's out-the-back offload, Marshall then spotted a gap and stepped into open country. Next, he calmly drew the last defender before supplying Shanahan, who, as ever, was trailing on the inside and in the right place.

Pure heads-up rugby as this was no training ground drill.

"It was just off the cuff," Marshall said of his assist for Shanahan.

"Shanners runs those lines really well, he's quite smart at staying upfield and inside. There's a bit of risk that he doesn't get the ball, but he seems to get it quite often and gets the walk-ins.

"He's a smart rugby player. He does it in training but he's not practising it, he just reads the game well.

"You see a lot of nines doing it now, Gareth Davies with Wales is the best at it. Shanners runs it really well, last year he scored several tries off Darren Cave who (then) did all the hard work putting him away."

For all the good vibes though, there is still that niggle that Ulster have failed to take bonus-point wins from their last two games, which both happened to be at home and against teams - Cardiff Blues and Zebre - who have, between them, won just once this season.

"You would have liked it because those points matter at the end of the season," Marshall said.

"We definitely had the chances to take the bonus point, so that's disappointing.

"But on a night like that, we were happy with the win."

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