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We'll show Ulster fans how much the jersey means to us: Herring

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster joint-captain Rob Herring has assured supporters that the team have been stung by their recent poor form just as much as the Kingspan faithful. The province have lost four of their last five games, with defeat to Edinburgh last time out a particularly poor display from a side who now sit outside the play-off places ahead of Friday's PRO12 visit from Zebre.

"I think a lot of the time people don't really know how players feel," said Herring. "They think we accept losses just like that but we don't.

"It really does sit in the back of your mind for ages. We weren't happy with it. We know it wasn't good enough.

"The guys know we aren't just going to show up at the weekend and win.

"We have to put in the hard yards. We have to be better."

The reverse in Murrayfield came almost three weeks ago but Herring says it has been on his mind throughout the international break.

Not selected for Ireland duty this November, Herring took the opportunity for a short break during the week of the Canada game but his side's slump was never far from his thoughts.

"After a game like that you just want to be back in training, back with the boys, but we've had to wait," he said.

"I went away but it's all you're thinking about. You're just thinking about what you can do better, what you need to work on, how you're going to pull the boys together, how we're going to win the next game.

"These are things that play on your mind.

"The whole squad is buying in. We have to move on. We have to be better and get momentum for the rest of the season because we can't keep going like this.

"We've taken a step back and refreshed the batteries a bit and training has been brilliant.

"There's a few back from injury and there's been a bit more energy. The guys really want to put it right.

"We've trained hard so far, had a few good sessions and we have more in the next couple of days. I know we're going to come out firing on Friday night."

Despite criticism of their showings from elsewhere, with the need to get their flagging season back on track, Herring stressed that the pressure to put things right comes from within, a responsibility he feels even more keenly having assumed the role of joint-captain this summer.

"It's difficult. I have that responsibility, but I've got great guys around me too, senior players who have been here longer than me," he said.

"There's brilliant support from them. We all know we have to get through this together. We have to pull in together and get out the other side of this patch.

"I think there's always external pressure, especially at home.

"We know we owe the crowd a performance but we put pressure on ourselves. You can't rely on external pressures.

"We want to be better. We want to achieve great things this season. We want to win silverware.

"We know the last four or five weeks won't cut the mustard.

"We put pressure on ourselves to be better and all the guys are buying into it.

"In training, if someone is messing up then guys are onto him. It's in a positive way, but so that everyone knows that's not good enough. That's how we grow.

"We won't get anywhere if we're not driven by ourselves."

Zebre come to Belfast having beaten Edinburgh on their last away trip, a feat that was beyond Ulster, while Italian rugby has been buoyed by the national side's first ever victory over the Springboks on Saturday.

The Azzuri, led by former Irish international Conor O'Shea, were 20-18 winners over the two-time World champions in Florence, just a week on from shipping 10 tries to the All Blacks.

While Herring, a native South African who came to Ulster in 2012, has been looking at the shock result from the perspective of the defeated giant, he thinks Italian rugby will get a huge lift from the upset.

"It's been all over my Facebook," he laughed. "The South African media can be pretty harsh, I saw every player given a zero rating.

"But it's a huge occasion for Italian rugby, the first time they've ever beaten them.

"It's only going to affect the rest of the boys positively. Whether that affects the performance (this week), I don't know. I'm sure they'll be happy.

"We know what Zebre can do. They're a good side and they're very physical. They have threats all over the park.

"We're going to have to really attack them this week in the scrum. We've seen what they did to Leinster a few weeks ago. They've a good scrum if we let them.

"Being involved in that Edinburgh game, physicality was one thing we were really disappointed with.

"We let ourselves down massively. We have to bounce back and show what that Ulster jersey means this weekend."

Belfast Telegraph


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