Taming the Tigers can kick-start Ulster's season, says Curtis
Ulster centre Angus Curtis believes the province will have to channel their recent interpro pain into a big performance if they are to get off to a winning start in Europe against Leicester Tigers this weekend.
Having followed up their record Thomond Park thumping with a first home loss to Connacht in 58 years on Friday night, the side that started the season unbeaten have now not won any of their last three.
With European big-spenders Racing 92 also in the pool, not to mention Scarlets, the need for a strong start to continental competition on Saturday (5.30pm kick-off, Kinsgpan Stadium) is clear for Dan McFarland's men.
"I think we have more pain now that is going to drive training this week," said Curtis. "Everyone is going to do what they can, what is done is done but a result will settle the mind and get the season going again.
"This weekend is very important and we need to pull out a performance we can be proud of."
Friday's reverse at the hands of their western neighbours at least yielded a losing bonus point after Nick Timoney's late try, but it was a performance plagued with ill-discipline - another two cards were shown to the home side - and set-piece issues.
"It was a disappointing result," admitted Curtis.
"We wanted to take the pain from Munster into this game and get a result but we didn't.
"At times we played really well but our discipline let us down and we missed a few chances in their 22. Everyone in this league is really good and if you don't take your chances then you're not going to win games.
"We really wanted the result and didn't get it but with 13 men on the field we dug really deep and tried really hard and gave 100%. It was just the discipline and the chances we missed that were the differences between the two sides."
The derbies in Limerick and Belfast represented the first senior starts in the career of Curtis and, despite the lacklustre results, the former Irish under-20s international had performed well.
With a grandfather and father who both represented Ireland, Curtis was born in Zimbabwe and educated in South Africa but, wherever he lay his head, always harboured aspirations of forging a career in the game.
Having earlier this year been upgraded to a development deal, which will become a pro contract upon its conclusion, he is one of the talented cadre of youngsters that have Ulster fans believing the future could be bright despite the decidedly mixed results of the past four seasons.
"I'm loving it," he said. "It was a childhood dream to play professional rugby and doing it here at a great club and in a great city, I'm absolutely adoring it.
"The interpros there is a lot more passion and you can hear it in the crowd and feel it on the field. Leicester is going to be another level up.
"Every training week is intense everyone is giving 100%, but it is going to be a different atmosphere. Just like the last two games it is going to be a step up and if I'm involved I'm really looking forward to it.
"There are some young guys but some really old guys with a lot of wisdom and a lot of stuff to teach."
It was during the second-half on Friday night that he found himself in need of plenty of advice. With Mattie Rea having been sent off only 11 seconds after the turn, and Marcell Coetzee already in the bin, someone had to fill in at the back-row in what was already a struggling scrum.
Despite tipping the scales at under 90kgs, it seemed that Curtis's lack of seniority went against him when it came time to pack down.
"I was told (rather than volunteered)," he said.
"All the props were telling me what to do, it was pretty tough but when people go off you have to do something to help out the scrum.
"I don't think I was probably the best (player) for it but hopefully I did my job."
There was certainly at least one highlight, coming when Connacht won the ball against the head and seemed sure to score only for Curtis to alertly break off the base and chase the more traditional back-rower down.
"It was just instinct," he said. "I looked up and saw him going down the trams and just pinned the ears back and did all I could."
Should that European debut come this week, he will no doubt hope it comes in more familiar surroundings.