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Paul Marshall eager to find the cure for Ulster travel woes ahead

By Michael Sadlier

Les Kiss has just completed his first official media duties as Ulster's new Director of Rugby when Paul Marshall walks in complete with a black eye -though admittedly fading - and facial scar which are legacies of the clash against Cardiff nearly a fortnight ago.

However, neither Marshall's appearance, nor indeed Kiss' aspirational words, are part of the foreground as the long-serving scrum-half finds himself having to put some meat on the bone regarding the topic that just won't go away - namely, the side's rather dismal away record.

Three games outside the Kingspan fortress and three defeats have come Ulster's way though they haven't limped home empty-handed with a solitary losing bonus point being wrought from Edinburgh while two were gathered up from last Friday's 32-28 defeat at Munster.

The 30-year-old is only too aware that stumbling on the road is probably going to be a central feature of this media appearance so he's ready to take the hit.

"Home or away, the game doesn't really change," said Marshall. "You've got to outsmart the opposition and score more than them."

And there is more, with a further airing on the not unreasonable notion that the team are having a problem leaving Belfast thanks to them now having lost six of their last seven, stretching back to the previous visit to Newport Gwent Dragons in early March where they fell 26-22.

So, here we are again. Another trip to Rodney Parade and for a Sunday game too, just like the one eight months ago. That combination doesn't seem to bode too well but Marshall is rightly having none of it.

"Yes, this weekend we're at the Dragons and they've been going steady at home. It is a tough place to go but at some point we have to break our duck away from home and hopefully it can be this weekend," he said before addressing the Sunday issue that is lingering around with the side mostly used to, and preferring, Friday night games.

"You could argue that (playing on a Sunday) would actually be a good thing as the away form hasn't been great and it would be nice to change it up.

"But we're in a professional set-up now and whether it's a Friday night or Saturday afternoon, it doesn't change what we're trying to achieve.

"We've come unstuck away from home and I know people will say 'you can't win away' but it's still the same pitch and the same four lines."

Marshall, who is set to make his 153rd appearance for the province on Sunday, added: "We definitely felt we under-performed in the Scarlets game and at Edinburgh.

"I think we performed a lot better against Munster but getting three bonus wins at home and three bonus points from losing away helps your cause but, still, to go away and score 28 points and not win (against Munster) is obviously very disappointing.

"We are going to win (away) at some point and it would be nice to go into the Oyonnax game (next week's first European clash) with a victory."

The three-times-capped Ireland international then has to field a query about Ruan Pienaar's return to the squad this week which, by implication, means Marshall having to ultimately make way.

"I've played quite a lot so far and I don't know what the deal is with him whether he's straight in to get a bit of game-time, and get used to our patterns and systems, or whether his integration will be a bit slower," he added.

"I've played most of the games and I feel okay so I'd like to keep playing."

Point made.

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