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Ulster Rugby haven't given up on Jared Payne

By Niall Crozier

Ulster have not ruled out an appeal against Jared Payne's two-match ban following his dismissal in the Heineken Cup defeat against Saracens 10 days ago.

Having missed Friday night's PRO12 match against Connacht, Payne has already served half his sentence, making an appeal improbable. Nevertheless, Ulster Rugby said last night that no decision has been taken as to whether or not to proceed.

"We have 72 hours to decide," a spokesman said.

Nor were Ulster able to provide a prognosis as to the seriousness of Robbie Diack's ankle ligament injury which saw him make an early exit from Friday night's 58-12 PRO12 whipping of Connacht at Ravenhill.

Prior to that match Anscombe said: "We can either sit here, feel sorry for ourselves over what has happened and let the PRO12 slip by, or we can bounce back up and say, 'right, there's still something we can get out of this season.' Those are our options.

"We believed we were good enough to win the Heineken Cup. If that's true, then why can't we win the PRO12?" was his rhetorical question.

"That is what remains for us, so this is where we've got to do justice to ourselves and to our fans. We've got to get back on our horse, take the unfortunate medicine and show that we're quality people and a quality team by winning this PRO12. That has to be our target," he stressed.

"The great thing about this game of ours is that it allows you to repair things by getting back out there the following week.

"Good people, good teams, can do that. It's about how you look after yourself from game-to-game, how you prepare, how you refresh."

At that, he had thrown down a challenge by saying: "As a group we're into our last few weeks. After the season ends, this group will never be together again because we've got some key people who are leaving.

"So how do we want to look back in 10 years time when we reflect on this year? Are we going to reflect on this season based on one event, one incident? (Payne's dismissal against Saracens) Or are we going to be able to say, 'yes, that was one bad thing that happened, but look how we bounced out of it'.

"I want us to be able to remember this year for the good reason that we ended up with something tangible from it."

Even in the face of injuries to Rory Best, John Afoa, Ruan Pienaar, Dan Tuohy and Roger Wilson, Anscombe had refused to bow ahead of that potentially difficult date with Connacht.

"Yes, we're minus some key people, but others are being given an opportunity. The excitement and energy of what it means to them to be pulling on an Ulster jersey will rub off on the others and we've got to use that and we've still got a lot of experience here, so those guys can help the others through," he said, still managing to find gold nuggets of positivity where a lesser man would have seen only the black mire of negativity.

"All these guys just have to look to each, be honest to each other and front up. We will need the energy of the guys coming in, getting the others excited and challenging them."

Referring to lessons from the past, Anscombe had warned: "History shows that the week after a Heineken game can be difficult. Sometimes it's hard getting guys back up to level they need to be at if they're to perform. That's going to be the challenge."

With a trip to Glasgow this weekend, followed two weeks later by a home game against Leinster and then a Thomond Park meeting with Munster in the last fixture of the 22-match PRO12 programme, Ulster have a particularly tough run-in.

While Anscombe was willing to admit that, significantly he added: "If we're good enough, we're good enough. If we're not, we're not.

"We know we're good enough to beat each of them. Will we? Time will tell, but I say it again – if we felt we were good enough to win in Europe, which we did, then we've got to believe we're good enough to win the PRO12."

Belfast Telegraph


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