Belfast Telegraph

Let's show that Ulster are number one team now, blasts Best

By Michael Sadlier

As always, there is precious little flannelling when Rory Best is facing you.

He has brought with him a typically direct message regarding Ulster's need to get their hands on silverware in Saturday's RaboDirect PRO12 final against Leinster at the RDS.

And this is forcefully hammered home even though it's hard not to be distracted by the still angry looking bang above his left eye picked up a fortnight ago against the Scarlets.

"We're sick of saying we're building and talking about how close we are, we want to emulate what Leinster have done and we want to emulate what Munster did before that," he said.

"We have to make sure it's not all for nothing," stated Best, alluding to the second consecutive year that Ulster have reached a showpiece final, with last year's Heineken Cup experience having ended rather badly for them.

That was, of course, also against Leinster who now stand in Ulster's path as Best and his team-mates attempt to bring a trophy back to Ravenhill for the first time since the dramatically clinched Celtic League success of 2006, a game in which Best played.

And with Leinster having lifted the Amlin Challenge Cup last weekend – a third European trophy in Joe Schmidt's three years in charge after two Heineken Cup victories – the men in blue appear determined to send the coach on his way to the Ireland job on the back of an elusive European and PRO12 double.

Best doesn't try to deny that Leinster have impressive pedigree and lethal form when it comes to delivering at the business end of the season but for all that, he feels Ulster have more than a chink of light when it comes to their chances this time around.

After all, they have already beaten Schmidt's men twice in the PRO12 – the first victory in Dublin since 1999 causing much celebration back in March – while Leinster have also lost the last three finals with two of those defeats actually coming at the RDS.

"Yes, there was a fairly substantial gap between the two teams last year and we have shown this year that the gap is closing," said the 30-year-old who will lead Ireland's two-Test tour to North America next month.

"Leinster have shown their quality. They were impressive (in beating Stade Francais to lift the Amlin) which is a sign of the strength of squad they have, particularly as they can tinker a little bit to put out a so-called slightly weaker team and everyone is still able to hit a certain level.

"But it was still a big achievement for us to win in the RDS and we know it will take an unbelievable effort again, but the one thing we are taking a lot of solace from is that it's going to be a 50/50 split of fans.

"We know our travelling fans will take up our allocation and will make their fair share of noise.

"We have the hunger and belief and we have a couple of big causes why we want to win something this year," said the hooker, who will make his 143rd appearance for Ulster on Saturday night.

He then alludes to the tragic loss of Ulster's Nevin Spence last September.

"We've seen tributes online over the last week and it's very much there for us as it has been all season. Tragedy is never a good thing but it can be something that can spur us on," he said.

And with that comes another of those direct statements.

He said: "We have to make sure when we come off the pitch on Saturday we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything and played to the best of our ability. And I believe if we can do that we'll have won the game."

Belfast Telegraph


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