Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best has revealed for the first time how former Irish team-mate Brian O'Driscoll caused hurt among the Kingspan ranks when he labelled the club a 'basket case' amid last season's woes, on and off the pitch.
Best was speaking at yesterday's Guinness PRO14 League launch in Glasgow where he also said he expects to make a decision on his playing future after the November internationals.
The northern province's only Test centurion has a contract with the IRFU running until the end of the World Cup in Japan next autumn but has not ruled out playing beyond the tournament that will start a month after his 37th birthday.
But for now his focus is on the new league season that begins on Saturday week at home to Scarlets.
With new coach Dan McFarland having started work earlier this week, Best believes his side must still heed the lessons from the testing campaign last time around that saw O'Driscoll level his 'basket case' jibe.
"It hurts obviously when players you played with say things like that," Best said. "He'd probably admit to it, that he didn't mean to go as far as 'basket case.' It sort of came out.
"But it does hurt coming from someone that you played with, and you feel you've been competitive with in terms of Ulster and Leinster games. It sort of does make you rethink 'what are we doing that this is the perception of us?'
"There were things written about us that were probably accurate enough and there were things that were wide of the mark. It's important we don't let that define where we're going.
"You should enjoy playing in an Ulster shirt and for the two or three months, from the end of Europe to the end of the Six Nations, boys didn't look like they enjoyed playing rugby and playing for Ulster. That had to stop. It's a clean slate now in terms of league position and league points, but there are things we have to remember too."