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Vainikolo the main man as Ulster face stern test

By Ciaran Donaghy

Ulster conclude their preparations for the new season with a game against top English Premiership side Gloucester at Ravenhill tomorrow night (6.30).

Defeating Leeds last Friday was followed by a week's warm weather training in Portugal and Roger Wilson, who retains the skipper's armband after an impressive display against the Yorkshire club, knows the Cherry and Whites will provide a sterner test.

"It will be a bigger challenge than the Leeds game, they only have six guys away to the World Cup and they have a massive squad so aren't really as affected by the RWC as us," said Wilson.

"They have a lot of big name players, a lot of the guys are very recognisable and obviously their summer rugby league signing, Lesley Vainikolo, will be one player to keep an eye on.

" We definitely need to lift our game 5-10% from the Leeds game. I think everyone impressed against Leeds and Mark (McCall) and the coaching staff had a few very hard calls to make with the team this week.

"It was hard on the guys that didn't make the team this week but no heads dropped during training so I am hopeful that we will continue on from the Leeds game."

Buoyed by the late win against the premiership newcomers, the Ulster squad enjoyed their time in the sun and Wilson believes the side are ready to meet the challenge of Gloucester.

" We were all reasonably happy with our performance (against Leeds) considering it was the first game and a lot of the team hadn't played a game together before," added the skipper.

"Everyone put their hand up and a lot of the younger players did exceptionally well, at the end we didn't panic and got the good result.

"We had the video session of the game this week in camp and talked through the things we need to improve on ahead of the Gloucester game."

Scottish winger Simon Danielli is set to make his Ulster debut tomorrow night after only beginning training with the squad last weekend and his captain believes he is capable of grabbing the chance although he could face a baptism of fire.

"He has settled in really well. This is a big opportunity for Simon, he was back at training this week and feeling good and ready for it," said Wilson.

"Mark believes in him so it is the ideal chance for Simon to show what he can do and stake his claim on his position on the starting team.

"He will have a big challenge lining up against Vainikolo."

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