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Ulster will play their emotional card as well

By Niall Crozier

Mark Anscombe is happy to play what he has called 'an emotional card' at the RDS tonight (7pm).

But only sparingly, given that he knows too much emphasis on the sideshow could prove counter-productive.

In preparing his troops for the RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final shoot-out with Leinster, Ulster's coach has forecast the hosts will seek to make maximum use of the fact that defeat would mean Brian O'Driscoll and Leo Cullen end their glittering playing careers on a losing note.

"They have got a little bit of an emotional card, but so do we," Anscombe said.

"With this being the last season for Leo Cullen and Brian O'Driscoll, I'm pretty sure Leinster are going to try and make something of this being their last chance to win silverware.

"But we can counter that with Johann Muller, who is also retiring, plus John Afoa and Tom Court who are moving on, and the fact that we want silverware, too.

"There's no doubt that both teams have got their little motivation factors there. Those have been great players and good people for the two teams, so we're both going to be trying to use that emotion.

"But emotion will get you only so far. At the end of the day it's about being clear in your head and not allow ourselves to be distracted or sidetracked."

The bookmakers have installed Leinster as 4/9 favourites, with Ulster on offer at 7/4. If Ulster are to prove the bookies wrong, their big-name players will be required to front up and lead by example.

"That's what you ask in these situations," Anscombe said. "At any level of rugby – international or whatever – there are always guys who have a bit more experience than the others and you need them to step up.

"You need your leaders to lead and show that little bit of level-headedness under pressure."

And stressing the need to take chances, he added: "When you've got two good teams going at each other, neither of them is going to dominate for the whole 80 minutes. The other team will have periods where they dominate too.

"At those times when the opposition are on top, then it's about how you keep your composure, keep your confidence and are able to turn that around. And that's where experience really comes to the fore.

"In a game like this, there may only be only one or two opportunities and it's because they're limited you've got to be clear-headed and ready to take them. Because they won't keep coming."

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