Rory Best returning ready to drive on for Ulster European triumph
Ulster hooker Rory Best is hopeful that his native province can emulate Leinster's post-2009 Six Nations heroics by going on to add the Heineken Cup to the championship title.
Five years ago, following Ireland's Grand Slam, Leinster conquered Europe. And with Ireland having just won the 2014 Six Nations, Best believes Ulster can follow their neighbours' example.
"We've seen it in the past with Munster and Leinster," he said. "In 2009 Leinster really used that to catapult themselves forward and they went on to win the European Cup. They had that unbelievable performance against Munster in the semis.
"A lot of that came from having had so many involved in the Grand Slam. The general swagger that you get from having been involved in something like that gives you a huge boost."
Referring to himself, Chris Henry and Andrew Trimble who were ever-presents in Joe Schmidt's starting line-ups for each of the five Tests, and Paddy Jackson, Iain Henderson and Dan Tuohy who played significant support roles, Best stressed: "We need to bring that confidence back in with us and harness it.
"Obviously we have to make sure that we're not a little bit over the top with it, but I think – especially from an Ulster point of view – a little bit of confidence isn't a bad thing because too many times we've been almost apologetic for being good.
"I don't think we need to be apologetic any more. We're good because we have good players, but we also have good players who work hard to try and be the best they can."
Given that it will be a dress rehearsal for their April 5 Heineken Cup quarter-final meeting with Saracens, Ulster are likely to field as close as possible to a full-strength side for Saturday night's date with Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park (6.30pm).
Best, Henry and Trimble are good to go after their week off to wind down from the Six Nations high.
Henry was at Old Trafford last Wednesday night to see Manchester United beat Olympiakos in the Champions League, while Trimble went rather further afield for a well-earned post-championship break – to Dubai.
Best said: "Ulster Rugby are always very, very good to us. They gave the three of us the week off and they gave Hendy (Iain Henderson), who was on the bench in Paris, and Jacko (Paddy Jackson) who flew across to be there with us, Monday off just to let us all get our heads around it.
"That means we weren't coming back down with a bump and straight back to Ulster. So physically – and probably as much as anything, mentally – we'll be refreshed and coming back in full of confidence having won a Six Nations and having been involved with a very good Ireland team.
"Hopefully that can be a big lift."