Tyrone Howe: Ulster must emulate European display when facing Leinster
The most important aspect from last Sunday is that Ulster now have to look forward rather than back at what might have been.
While Leinster dispatched Leicester, frontrunners and perennial heavyweights of the Aviva Premiership, Ulster’s game definitively proved that our players can mix it with the top sides in Europe. While occupying fourth position in the Premiership, with a full side and on form, Northampton Saints are for me the biggest contenders to the Tigers’ crown.
An occasion like the one at Stadium MK will have left an indelible impression on the players. It makes you crave more, it makes you want to dine at the top table more often, and it makes you hungry for further challenges.
The tests will come soon enough and none more so than this weekend away to Leinster. Currently sitting in second position in the Magners League, qualification for the knock-out stages is tantalisingly close.
The players have had a taste of something that a decade of former players, myself included, never were able to savour. The only way to do full justice to this experience is to forge ahead and demand ever higher standards from each other.
The expectation has been created among players and supporters alike and it is unthinkable that Ulster can return to the dark days of ending up at the bottom end of domestic and European tables.
It is now not a question of fitness, but focus, and the next few weeks will be spent keeping the players fresh and fine-tuning the patterns that have been in place throughout the season.
Finally, to Ulster’s supporters, you were a credit to your team. Together with the players you are helping to put Ulster on the rugby map for all the right reasons. Hopefully there will be further reason to cheer.