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Ulster v Munster: Star Andrew Trimble extra keen to claim bragging rights as Ulstermen face-off Irish derby rivals

By Michael Sadlier

The plan is to attend an Ireland get-together tomorrow where Joe Schmidt will conduct a post-World Cup shakedown and a look ahead to the forthcoming Six Nations.

So the bragging rights from whoever has the better of things from today's derby meeting with Munster will still be fresh when Andrew Trimble, and the many others, at what will be an extended squad gathering, are exposed to Schmidt's uncompromisingly forensic analysis.

Trimble knows that it's unlikely too much flak will come his way, having missed out on the World Cup, but the chances are still reasonable that Schmidt will have something to pick out from the recent performances of Ulster's first 200-cap man.

It might bring some relief for the 31-year-old that he has been in reasonably good form of late when it comes to his bread and butter of scoring tries. After all, he has crossed the line in both European back-to-back victories over Toulouse and he could hardly be blamed for failing to gather the pass to his toes which came his way from Luke Marshall against Connacht last weekend.

Or could he? Schmidt might think otherwise of course. At least the moniker 'Sahara' has been ditched with Ulster thanks to those two scores achieved in Europe to add to his one earlier in the season in the clash with Cardiff Blues.

"Neil Doak was calling me 'the Sahara' there because it had been a bit of a dry patch for me as I'd only scored one against Cardiff up until the Toulouse games," says Ulster's most capped player with that familiar grin.

Today would be a particularly apt occasion to pick up his fourth score of the season with so much fanfare surrounding the double century of appearances for the province but, either way, Trimble is intent on getting hold of something significant from the experience.

"I might keep my shirt if Mick (Ennis, the squad's kit organiser) allows me," Trimble says before referring to what he has gathered up from just over a decade in the game.

"I've only won a couple of Triple Crowns, a Six Nations and a league which is not a massive return from 11 years.

"But even with that small bit of silverware I still have so much memorabilia, World Cup caps, World Cup jerseys, there is so much stuff you add along the way.

"It's just another thing you give to your dad to get framed and then never see it again," he adds with a laugh.

But a much more pressing concern is today's interprovincial and Ulster's bid to secure a healthy five-in-a-row wins in all competitions while their familiar opponents arrive in Belfast looking rather dishevelled as they seek to avoid succumbing to six straight defeats over both the league and Europe.

"There is no point in us having this momentum unless we capitalise on it," Trimble states.

"It is a really good opportunity for us (in the table) and though all the local derbies over the Christmas period in the league are tough we just have to worry about ourselves, get our stuff sorted, make sure we know where we're at and hopefully produce a big one."

He naturally accepts that Munster coach Anthony Foley is a man under pressure but reckons that, if anything, this makes the misfiring southern province even more threatening and likely to ruin Ulster's New Year party.

"There are two ways of looking at that," Trimble, who is still a bit troubled by a hip flexor issue, explains.

"That one win becomes more elusive when you haven't had it in a few weeks, but at the same time they could be more dangerous as a result and just more desperate to get that win.

"I think they are dangerous at the minute and not that far away from clicking. They are playing good rugby and throwing it about.

They are stretching defences and holding onto the ball for long periods.

"Hopefully our defence will stay as it has been, just be as smart, keep our spacing and be more patient than they are with the ball, but we'll need to keep our wits about us."

As for today's game being an essential component in an unofficial Irish trial for Schmidt, with centre Stuart McCloskey unavoidably under the microscope here, Trimble naturally prefers to focus on just getting the right result for his province.

"There are still a few weeks to go before the Six Nations I think it would be a little short-sighted to look at games like that (as Irish trials).

"I think this will be about Ulster trying to keep our momentum going and Munster trying to turn the tide and I don't think we can look any further than that in what is a big challenge for us," the 58-times capped Ireland international says with conviction.

"If we drop our standards we'll get chinned this weekend, you can only look after your own stuff, get your standards right and get out and produce."

So the first plan for Trimble is to get the win and then those bragging rights can be exercised at tomorrow's Ireland gathering.

Belfast Telegraph


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