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Wilson relishing opportunity to prove himself against fierce rivals Munster

Even nine and a half years on from his solitary Ireland appearance, Roger Wilson still understands the significance of bettering the man directly opposite you when it comes to inter-provincial contests.

Ulster travel to Munster tomorrow night and the 33-year-old is sure that, especially with next year's World Cup looming large, there will be plenty more than just Guinness PRO12 points up for grabs.

The former Northampton Saints man said: "It's always one where you try and outdo your opposite number.

"There's a lot of players now who have the World Cup just around the corner so it's a great opportunity to stick your hand up for selection in any Irish squads.

"There are certain positions where there is plenty of depth in Irish rugby so these are the games where you really want to prove what you can do against your opposite number one-on-one."

As it stands, Wilson is something of an anachronism, the genuinely talented 'one-cap wonder', which were so common in the '60s and '70s, but rare in today's game of increased benches and expanded Test schedules.

It is undoubted that playing his rugby outside of Ireland - he spent four years with the Saints in the English Premiership - did not help his cause but even a return to his native province in 2012, where he has been an unerringly consistent performer throughout his second stint, failed to see him add to his tally.

Both the grandson and nephew of Ireland internationals, Wilson has instead been left to mentor the younger Ulster talent when his fellow established performers are, just as they have been over the last month, in situ with Joe Schmidt.

On his increasing leadership role within the group, he said: "You just have to lead by example and make sure that, with quite a few young players and two other fairly inexperienced back row players, you're making life as comfortable as possible for them, encouraging them, and making sure they're doing what they're good at.

"You have to be a little more selfless and think more about the team rather than just yourself."

Indeed, his standing within the squad has led to him acting as captain on the three occasions when Rory Best has been absent this season and he will do so again tomorrow should the hooker be rested given his exertions with Ireland last week.

Wilson does not feel, however, that leading the side alters the way that he plays.

"I wouldn't say it affects my game too much. It's a job that I'm comfortable doing and I've been asked to do it now a few times.

"You just concentrate on your role. Talking with refs that bit more is just something you get used to. It comes with age and the amount of games I have under my belt now. Obviously I'd be one of the more senior members in the squad and I just want to fill in for Rory as well as possible."

Irrespective of who plays, and despite the fact that both Edinburgh and Ospreys have already stormed the once impregnable fortress this season, Wilson is expecting one of the season's biggest challenges at Thomond Park

"If you're not 100% then you'll get shown up quite badly," said the former RBAI pupil. "They definitely seem to have gone back to the old traditional Munster way of things. They have a tough pack and they'll look to soften you up before going wide.

"In fairness to them, they're doing it really well and they're probably one of the best teams at the moment at keeping the ball.

"They lost a couple of games there this season and obviously we beat them there last season with a pretty depleted squad.

"Ulster had a great win against them in the Heineken Cup a few years ago (2012) so it's not as if it's something that we haven't done before."

The big games continue apace, the resumption of the European Champions Cup following the visit to Limerick.

And Wilson is refusing to give up on Ulster's continental endeavours despite a lacklustre start.

"The odds aren't in our favour but I think we really have to be at our absolute best. It'll take some phenomenal performances, and relying on other results going our way, but we're never going to give less than 100%, that's what Ulster Rugby is about. We'll be throwing everything at it."

A full-blooded inter-pro derby may just be the perfect preparation.

Belfast Telegraph