Frustrated Ulster back-rower Clive Ross determined to seize rare chance to impress
Having appeared in 23 of Ulster's 28 matchday squads in 2016-2017, back-rower Clive Ross has already missed more games this year than last, and admits the early months of this season have been frustrating.
The Cork native, a cousin of former Leinster and Ireland stalwart Mike Ross, arrived in Belfast in 2014, with his game time steadily growing until the arrival of Jono Gibbes and the rest of a new coaching ticket this summer, although he figures to be involved on Friday night when an injury-hit Ulster take on Benetton at Kingspan Stadium (7.05pm kick-off).
"I've been a little frustrated in terms of how much I have played," said the 28-year-old. "I've had a few knocks here and there and then some selection things. I've been largely frustrated but I have the opportunity this weekend to put in a decent performance.
"New coaches come in and it's a new slate, it's a trial period for everyone. They look for different things and it's up to each individual to work out what those are and deliver those.
"I potentially didn't do that early enough in the season and this is an opportunity to rectify that and show them what I can do. I'm just looking forward to more opportunities."
While he hasn't been handed many of those lately, his coaches, and indeed his team-mates, were certainly thankful for his late intervention last time out when his second senior try saw the province narrowly avoid being the first Guinness PRO14 side to fail to beat the Southern Kings.
His 73rd minute try, which was followed by an even later effort by Robbie Diack in a frantic end to the game, helped Ulster to the dramatic 43-36 win in Port Elizabeth and certainly eased the stress of a three-flight, cross-continent journey home.
"It made the trip home a lot easier," he joked.
"I was happy just to make a bit of an impact when I got on. It would have been a long trip home after a good week being away as a squad, it would have been a shame if we hadn't got the result at the end of the week.
"There were definitely aspects we were disappointed in. I suppose at the end of the day if you get the five points it's a good result but I think there's definitely a lot of work ons for us.
"It came at the end of a pretty big block of games for us and I think we're reasonably happy with where we sit after that.
"Second in the conference, a few bad results along the way, but definitely a lot of room for improvement."
Similar to when tackling the Kings, Ulster again find themselves in a damned if they do, damned if they don't type of scenario on Friday, with most believing anything less than a five-point haul to be a disappointment.
Having been pushed all the way by Benetton in September's reverse fixture though, Ross is warning against complacency.
"Historically it's a fixture we have won in the past," he noted. "(But) Italian rugby in general is on the up with Conor O'Shea over there. There's no gimmies in the league, you saw in our last game against the Kings, right up to the last minute the game's in the balance. We'll need 80 minutes this Friday.
"We know they have quality players who aren't Italians, the likes of Nasi Manu, they've got decent players there."