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Ulster Rugby coach Mark Anscombe has learned from last year's exit

Ulster boss Mark Anscombe
Ulster boss Mark Anscombe

By Niall Crozier

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe has a few painful memories of last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final meeting with Saracens at Twickenham.

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In a match in which Ulster fell far short of the standard they had shown throughout the season, they went down 27-16.

In addition to the disappointment of having lost, what has played on Anscombe's mind ever since is the knowledge that too many of his players were not ready 12 months ago.

When the hostilities resume tomorrow night, it will be at Ravenhill. That is one very significant difference.

But there is another – and it is equally important. It is this; unlike April 2013 when Ulster were forced to field a patched-up, cobbled together side well short of game-time, tomorrow night will see Saracens pitted against a fit, physically and mentally ready Ulster side fully-prepared for 80 minutes of craft and graft.

"What happened 12 months ago is history and we certainly can't do anything about that now," Anscombe said, confirming that he has written it off. "But what we can do is take on board what happened and learn from it.

"As well as that, there were a couple of key factors in that game that didn't help us at all.

"Things have been talked about with regard to where we let ourselves down. There was a lot of disappointment on our part and a lot of the faces that were there last time are back again. We've got to use that hurt."

Recalling the situation that existed 12 months ago, Anscombe explained how Ulster had gone into that Twickenham encounter on the back of a memorable but draining PRO12 victory over Leinster a week earlier at the RDS.

"That was the first game back for a few of the guys and I think that took it out of them – Rory (Best), Chris Henry, Johann (Muller), Nick Williams," he said.

"They hadn't any rugby under their belts; you'll remember that we had that horrific injury run. So that was where we were going in against Saracens. We brought Tommy (Bowe) off the bench, and he hadn't played for months.

"The truth of the matter is that the game against Saracens came a week too early for us. We didn't have time to prepare because we had players who were receiving treatment just so that we could get them back on the park.

"It wasn't the sort of preparation you'd choose for a match of that importance, but sometimes you don't have choices. Then you just have to make do," he said with an air of resignation.

"I've had a good look at that game and I think we're a lot better team now. We're in a lot better state, too, which is important. And this time we're at home."

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