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Roger Wilson calls on Ulster to show passion for glory

By Michael Sadlier

He's closing in fast on his 150th appearance for Ulster, which seems an appropriate reward for a player who has largely been a mainstay of the side this season.

And Roger Wilson has also shown his versatility by playing right across the back row – he's back at number eight tomorrow – while the 32-year-old's resilience has been notable after having made substantial contributions in several games earlier this campaign, despite having to take the field with a broken toe.

He shrugs, though, at the accumulating accolades being fired his way for fronting up so effectively over the last few months and for the game-time that he has put in for Mark Anscombe.

After all, the former Northampton Saint, now in his second stint at Ravenhill, is only doing his job and is just thankful that he is in decent enough shape to do it.

"Luck plays a bit of a part in it," says Wilson of his consistency and continuing fitness.

"I had that bad injury just when I was moving back to Ulster," he mentions of the hamstring issue which kept him out of large parts of last season after striking him down in his last game for the Saints at the end of the 2011-12 campaign.

"And I find when I play more games I tend to get fewer injuries, if that makes sense. When I'm out and come back, that is when I'm likely to pick up something else, but at the moment I'm feeling 100% and have no issues," he adds.

Wilson didn't feel quite so good about last week when Ulster's PRO12 game with the Scarlets was called off with only a few hours to go before kick-off, thanks to the damage the appalling weather had wrought on the Ravenhill turf.

"It wasn't ideal," he says with a certain understatement, which is in no way directed at the correct decision being made about not playing, but more at the inconvenience of having to interrupt the players' advanced preparations.

"You gear your whole week towards peaking at the end of it.

"With things like diet you tend to eat a lot more carbs to get your energy levels high and boys would have probably started taking caffeine to get pumped up.

"It was only a few hours before the game when we got the call and then you're just left deflated and you just have to go into relaxation mode for a couple of days," he states of a tricky mental manoeuvre which all had to perform.

"Against the Ospreys (the previous week) we were a bit rusty and it tends to be that way when you come back from having time off, but we've just got on with what we've been dealt with and the boys have trained well this week.

"We have done a bit more contact than we would normally do to get as close to replicating a game as possible and hopefully we'll be a bit more fluent than we were two weeks ago in the Ospreys game."

"It was disappointing," Wilson again adds about having to stand down late last week.

"But it's happened before and it will happen again so it is just something you have to cope with."

We're not quite finished with the weather though, and Wilson is reminded of the last time fifth-placed Ulster were at Treviso when their Heineken Cup pool game in December was somewhat marred by a heavy fog which hung around the place.

"I was just chatting to Nick Williams (who played in Italy for the now defunct Aironi) and he says the weather over there at this time of the year starts to get better," says Wilson.

"Their coldest months are November, December and January, so in February it starts to brighten up a bit and it was certainly difficult last time in the mist.

"I don't think it was too enjoyable to watch and hopefully it will be easier for the players (this time).

"We got the four tries, though," he adds of what was Ulster's third meeting with the 10th-placed Italians, which up to tomorrow have all brought maximum points for Anscombe's men whether in the PRO12 or in Europe.

The inescapable fact that Treviso were absolutely milled by the Ospreys last Sunday – by a stonking 75-7 – is naturally brought up and Wilson tackles that one with Ulster's need to be mentally on the money tomorrow.

"The end results show that we have beaten them comprehensively (this season) but if you go into a game thinking it's going to be the same again then that's dangerous.

"We have to make sure our mindset is right as complacency is the real danger here," says the player who was on the last Ulster team to lift silverware when the Celtic League was won back in 2006.

"They got a good hiding and will that mean they bounce back and perform well at home or will it mean they will throw the head up?

"All we can do is just focus on ourselves and make sure our performance is better than it was against the Ospreys."

Belfast Telegraph


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