Belfast Telegraph

Court gets ready to lay down the law

By Michael Sadlier

As ever we encounter Tom Court in philosophical mood. Whether it's the impact of Ulster's stuttering form and the overriding need to get things back on track, Ireland's even more alarming collapse in the Six Nations and his own less than memorable experiences as part of that, Court's observations are both erudite and enlightening.

His speaks having clocked up an impressive mileage and, indeed, Court will rack up appearance number 120 for Ulster tonight against lowly Edinburgh when he will return to Murrayfield just a month shy of a rare start for Ireland which came about because of Cian Healy's ban and ended prematurely when Court was substituted before an hour was up.

That proved to be another deeply disappointing afternoon for the 32-year-old as he then had to sit and watch Ireland astonishingly lose their way and, afterwards, deal with being surplus to requirements again for the starting squad.

"It was nice, though, to get the 29th cap at Murrayfield," is pretty much the only positive he can take from his brief recall to national frontline duty.

And all that plus his involvement in the first two games of Ulster's rather damaging four game segment over the Six Nations period, with Court even having to revisit what was once familiar ground when he was shifted across to tight-head prop for the Ravenhill defeat to the Ospreys which began the rather ragged sequence for the once clear PRO12 League leaders.

"It's really just getting back to basics and doing the simple things again that we were doing at the start of the year," is how he now sees the priority for Ulster.

"We can't really afford to be having any more lapses so we've got to focus on winning every game now and make sure we have a good run-in."

At least all his energies are being solely focused on Ulster again – thanks to national commitments he hasn't played since the Zebre game in mid-February – which could be very beneficial for the side if he is able to once more channel his national frustrations into another series of ferociously energetic performances.

"It was good to get back together and everyone had a chat about what we need to be doing as things have slid a bit the last few weeks and we're trying to pinpoint why that has happened," Court explained.

"You can say it's down to a lot of things," he added before expanding on his statement.

"Injuries, interruptions with the internationals and a lot of guys also down in camp and even if they haven't been playing they've been away in camp all week and then have been coming back either the day before the game or the day of the game."

"I think obviously we probably lacked a lot of leadership over the last few weeks because we've been missing a lot of the senior guys.

"Johann's been out injured, Rory has been away and other senior guys have been away so it's just getting those guys to speak up and take control.

"What I mean is getting that composure. Basically if we're getting to the end of a game we know what to do and that the plan's in place," Court adds.

And to the disruption that was caused to Mark Anscombe's squad, Court adds the possibility that an element of complacency might also have been lingering in the background.

"Obviously we don't have that breathing space now and maybe that 10 or 11 point bumper that we had as leaders was maybe something that didn't really go in our favour as everyone maybe relaxed and thought 'if we drop one or two games it won't maybe matter'.

"It's one of those things that can't be helped," Court calmly states.

"But we're just making sure that we're focused and everyone is in the right place mentally and is switched on."

The Six Nations was a bumpy ride for himself and some of his Ulster team-mates what with late releases from national camp forcing players to hoof it up the road to Belfast at short notice, but he doesn't use it as an excuse for Anscombe's recent troubles, merely something which added further complexity to the situation.

"If players want to be putting their hands up (internationally) then they need to be able to take it in their stride," he says of having to divide time between Kildare and Belfast.

Ireland's two-game tour to take on the USA and Canada should offer Court yet another shot at national involvement but that's for later; now it's just about getting Ulster winning again.

"To let it slide now after such a good start and being in such a good position would be gut-wrenching," he says.

"With us it's just about getting the attitude right, starting this week."

It's now time to deliver an immediate recovery.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph