Ulster shouldn't put Leinster on a pedestal ahead of PRO14 trip to the RDS, argues Matt Faddes
He's been around here since the summer but, even so, what's facing Matt Faddes now is still very much uncharted territory for the Kiwi.
Rugby round up Newsletter
Tomorrow he will run out at the RDS for his initial visit to Leinster's fortress and then next week one of Ulster's new signings for this season will spend his first Christmas in the northern hemisphere.
And while observing that the festive season here is obviously not like the way things are at home in New Zealand, where it is currently the very height of summer, a certain chill factor also comes gift-wrapped when Ulster play Leinster in Dublin.
Yes, an encounter which the visitors have won just once this century whether in regulation season games or knockout clashes.
"Yeah, it'll be a bit different," the 28-year-old Kiwi from the south island admitted of both an evening's work in Dublin and then Christmas Day in Belfast with another Irish derby two days later at home to Connacht.
"I can't believe Christmas is next week, obviously at home you'd probably be winding down, part one of the pre-season done and then you'd get two weeks off.
"There's the sun, a few barbeques and a few beers," says the former Highlanders player almost wistfully. "I won't be doing that this time. But, yeah, it'll be cool to get the taste of a different culture and to see how things are done up here."
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
And the game? Faddes doesn't possess any baggage when it comes to Ulster's serial failure when going to Leinster.
It's just another game really and his chief concern is to perform well enough to stay in the side after having missed out on the province's first two rounds of European action.
"It's obviously my first time there," said the former All Blacks Sevens player.
"To be fair, I don't really know too much about the results between Ulster and Leinster in the last few years.
"We'll go there with an open mind. The boys are excited to get down there and it's obviously not too far from here."
Faddes will be hoping to re-produce the form shown last Friday at Harlequins when he helped set up John Cooney's first try and then scored himself when cutting back off his wing to nail Ulster's bonus point touchdown.
"It was very pleasing," he said with an understandable smile.
"But there's still plenty to work on, it's just (for me) more about getting involved in games and doing as much as possible," he added.
"Jacob (Stockdale) did very well," Faddes said of scoring his try. "I didn't have to do too much for it.
"Probably the week before, we let some opportunities go, so to get the bonus point away from home puts us in good stead leading into the final two weeks of the European rounds.
"But, yeah, I suppose this week, it's a whole different game."
As a supposedly marquee signing, it didn't sit well that Faddes was left out for Ulster's first two European games at Bath and then at home to Clermont.
Though he can cover wing, centre and full-back, there was no place in the squad and the former Highlanders player only came back in for his first taste of European action, his location out on the flank, when Robert Baloucoune got injured again and joined Rob Lyttle on the casualty list.
It offered a way back in but, in fairness, there were mitigating circumstances.
"You never like missing out on games especially when the team's doing well," he said.
"But it was actually quite refreshing," Faddes added of sitting things out.
"I took time off and got the body right and it was a lot better coming into that Scarlets week (in the PRO14).
"There were just niggling things (that were wrong) like a crooked knee and a crooked shoulder, so I worked hard with the physios and the body's now better."
He looked sharp at the Stoop and with Ulster being Leinster's nearest challengers in the PRO14's Conference A - there is an eight-point gap - getting something from the RDS would be very useful and particularly so with the Cheetahs only four points behind Dan McFarland's squad.
"It (playing at Leinster) will be a massive challenge," Faddes rightly admitted with some reference to the rivalry back home between his own side the Highlanders and the all-conquering Crusaders.
"Leinster have probably set the benchmark for the last few years both in Europe and the PRO14. But we want to get down there and start off the festive season well.
"I know Leinster won't be taking us lightly, but also we don't want to put them on too much of a pedestal and be gun-shy, that's for sure."
Ulster, pretty much as usual, seem certain to rest a number of key players for this festive trip south and, as such, reduce their chances of pulling off an extremely rare result against what will also likely be a diluted but still strong Leinster.
But they will not be travelling in a negative mindset and doubtless reference will have been made to how close they came to putting Leinster out of the Champions Cup in last March's epic game at the Aviva.
"It's just about piling on the moments throughout the 80 minutes," said Faddes.
"If we can win the majority of those, the chances are we're going to be up on the scoreboard."
It's a fair point. After all, it's only another game and anything could happen. Couldn't it?