Chris Henry confident early signs good for Ulster campaign
Despite the lack of their head coach to kick things off, Ulster players have maintained that the side's pre-season preparations have not been interrupted.
Aside from those still carrying injuries from last season and the quartet who represented Ireland against Australia this summer, the province's players were back in last week despite Dan McFarland's contractual limbo meaning he may not arrive to take up the reins until January.
This week Simon Easterby was diverted from Ireland duty to help out and Chris Henry believes that preparations are better than they were a year ago under Les Kiss and Jono Gibbes.
"It's been good so far," he said.
"It's always a shock to the system in the first week back and this heat is giving another dimension.
"It's been a good week, a lot of work has been done and having plenty of new faces has been fun.
"It's great to have Simon as a figurehead. He's already got his hands dirty in a lineout session and I'm sure he'll do a bit more.
"That's the thing from last week, even though Dan isn't here yet, there's a really good plan in place. All the coaches are saying the same things, they know what they want and there's obviously been a good plan put into place.
"It's great to have Simon here but the coaches that have been here too, it's been really, really good. Already we're ahead of where we were last year."
And while he can't draw the same comparisons to 12 months ago, another who is enjoying the early sessions is Will Addison, the new signing from Sale Sharks.
Having worked with Dwayne Peel at the Manchester-based club there has been at least one familiar face in the early goings but the utility back believes he has settled in quickly to life in Belfast.
"There's a good group of guys," he said. "I think you saw that at the end of last season and it's been good to be a part of it. I've been really enjoying it."
On the reasons for the switch, the former England underage international who is Irish qualified said he wants to better himself.
"It's a fresh challenge for me to become a better player," he added. "The quality of the squad here, and the chance to potentially push for international honours, you look around the stadium, the facilities, being in the Champions Cup, and there's so many factors that came into my decision and I've been really chuffed with it so far."