Tom Court calls on returning World Cup stars to kickstart fightback
This isn’t exactly what he was expecting after his sojourn in New Zealand, but Tom Court is just getting on with things in the hope that Ulster’s luck will turn on Saturday evening.
Clearly the experience of last weekend’s bonus point defeat at Parc y Scarlets, on Court’s first game back in an Ulster shirt, is still gnawing at the Australian-born prop and the thought of having to deal with that feeling again — which would condemn Ulster to a significantly damaging fifth straight PRO12 League defeat — is not something that he cares to consider.
After all, Court turns 31 on Sunday and, well, would rather be able to mark the date having had a good evening at the office the night before.
However, the main focus is just on upping the ante to get Ulster back on track again and not only breathe renewed life into their league campaign but also to deliver the required morale-boosting win ahead of Clermont’s visit to Ravenhill on Saturday week as the Heineken Cup rolls into town again.
“Last week was disappointing because a lot of the World Cup guys were back and I guess it was sort of a new phase in the season as the boys (those in the squad not in New Zealand) had a few weeks to regenerate and try to get the previous three weeks out of their system,” said Court.
“Last week was an improvement on the Treviso game but, having said that, we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
He’s not wrong there and the aim is that the availability of Stephen Ferris along with the hoped for appearances of Rory Best and the freshly arrived All Black World Cup winner John Afoa — his involvement will see Court move over to primarily play on the loosehead side of the scrum — will bring a much-needed boost in physicality and experience to a side that badly need to get a result over Connacht.
Not that there is any outward sense of crisis, indeed Court rightly makes it known that Ulster haven’t suddenly become a bad side and that they are, he feels, on the cusp of turning things around if only they could get that psychological boost of nailing a win.
“You know I think it’s really just the attitude,” Court said.
“The players are there and the ability is there. We not only showed that last season but also at the start of this season so it’s just making sure the boys get the combinations working and actually just play to the game plan.”
You sense that a combination of a sharper mental approach and enhanced accuracy should have an instant pay-off for Ulster, as will the returning World Cup players once they have fully bedded in again with a system of playing that they haven’t been exposed to since the end of last season and their departure to various international squads.
For Court, along with quite a few of the other freshly returned faces, it’s about getting back on the pitch again after having a heavily-rationed playing experience in New Zealand.
“Personally I need to be playing every week and you need to just get match fitness up and rhythm going regarding skills and game awareness,” he said. “You can run over all the patterns when you’re at home or in meetings, but the combinations with other players and getting used to being around the other players again just takes time.
“The more you play with them the better you’re going to get playing next to them.”
As a battle-hardened member of Brian McLaughlin’s squad, he feels there us an onus on him to bring a lot more to Ulster’s overall standard of performance whether it be at the set-pieces or in ball-carrying around the park.
“The pressure’s on to really get back up to speed and we need to be adding not only experience but a bit more energy to get everyone back up to where we need to be,” added Court.
The fightback has to start on Saturday.