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Leinster are not unbeatable: Adam McBurney fired up as Ulster prepare to upset odds

 

By Michael Sadlier

There has been progress this season as Adam McBurney appears to manoeuvred himself upwards to have become the third choice hooker at Ulster.

Yes, but now the 22-year-old faces another formidable test of his credentials as a player intent on further progress.

His first senior competitive start in an Ulster shirt was last September when he and his team-mates were subjected to a record 64-7 tanking at Thomond Park and now he must deal with another journey which looks pretty forbidding as Ulster head to the RDS Arena in Dublin, the seemingly traditional graveyard for their ambitions.

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At least for McBurney, there is no baggage weighing him down regarding Ulster's terrible record at Leinster, as he has never played there before, and this is the attitude that the visitors are intent on bringing to the Irish capital as they seek to put it up to the clear Conference B leaders, who sit 16 points in front of Dan McFarland's squad who, themselves, are now being strongly challenged for second spot.

"We're looking forward to see what we can do," he said while sounding fairly upbeat about meeting the reigning Guinness PRO14 and European champions at the RDS.

"Against that we're going to be challenged to the utmost and we're looking forward to getting stuck into them.

"It will be a good test for us to see where we are coming into the European fixture," he adds of next week's vital home tie with Racing 92.

Leaving aside Ulster's forgettable record in Dublin, there is a hope that McFarland's men might just find a way to discomfort Leinster in the same way that Munster did last weekend in the bad-tempered affair at Thomond Park, which the hosts won, or by coming out of the blocks early as Connacht managed in the previous round when so nearly triumphing in Dublin.

"There is no denying what Leinster have done in the last year or previous years too, they are a very good side," said the Ballymena native.

"Munster gave them a good challenge last week and managed to get one over them, even though there was a red card, which shows they are beatable.

"And Toulouse also beat them a few weeks earlier in the European Cup.

"We know they are a great side but they are not unbeatable and stranger things have happened."

So, it's just another game then.

The idea being that what has happened in the past is simply another country and of no relevance to what will unfold on Saturday evening in Ulster's third consecutive interpro.

It sounds like a reasonable plan.

"We're going down with the focus that we want to put in a good performance and put points back on the board after last week's loss," added McBurney.

He got on at the end in Connacht, when the game seemed gone, though Ulster still had an outside chance at a losing bonus point.

They didn't collect and came back from Galway with nothing except the unwelcome statistic of having been turned over twice this season by the westerners.

For McBurney, the Connacht experience is gone and now it's about learning lessons and putting down a marker against Leinster.

"You can't focus too much on the week before, and obviously we want to improve on some of the stuff that happened last week. However, it it is a new challenge against another strong pack and we're looking to physically front-up like we do in every game.

"It's about coming out of the blocks in the first 20 minutes and not letting the other team dictate the physicality of the game. If we can get over the gain-line early on it will make it a lot easier for us for the rest of the game."

He accepts that Leinster have formidable strength in depth and that any number of combinations might be coming Ulster's way this weekend as Leinster look to vent their frustrations on their visitors.

"They have got good depth there and obviously strength in the players they have got, and it will be interesting to see what we're up against this weekend.

"But we're looking forward to (seeing) what side they put out and as a front row we're looking forward to getting stuck into them."

This is a good chance for him to make a case for further advancement, though McBurney isn't for getting too far ahead of himself.

"I'd be stupid if I said I should start ahead of Rory Best every week or Rob Herring, as they are both playing great rugby," he states.

Naturally he is ambitious, and this drive can only be fulfilled by effectively doing his job where and when he is asked to perform.

And with the Six Nations now just around the corner, McBurney knows that more game-time should be coming his way.

"The only way I can dictate that (getting picked) is going out there with every opportunity I get and playing my best rugby.

"Then it is in the coaches' hands. It's not in my hands who is selected in the team, the only thing that I can do is go out there and try to play my best rugby.

"This year I have had more opportunities than in previous years and I'm thankful for that.

"It's about what I can add to the team and also doing my best for them.

"It's about making the most of whatever minutes I get and making them count," added McBurney.

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