Cave homes in on Ravenhill quarter-final
THE reconstructed stands at either end of Ravenhill are expected to be ready for use on the Heineken Cup quarter-final weekend of April 5, but whether Ulster will be able to take advantage of their new facilities remains to be seen.
Mark Anscombe has guided his charges into the last eight, but last month's defeat to Northampton in round four means that their hopes of staying in Belfast for the quarter-finals rest on their ability to win in France – something that the province have never achieved in the Heineken Cup.
Ulster – who will face Castres next Saturday – sit fourth on the ladder of quarter-finalists with one round of games remaining on 19 points, but with Toulouse, Saracens and Montpellier just one point back, it is clear that a win in France is needed to keep them in that position.
Having had to take on the Saints and Munster on their own patches in recent seasons, Darren Cave wants Ulster to continue their upward curve and claim that elusive last-eight spot in Belfast to make their passage back to the final that bit easier.
"I think the players know what's at stake now. Getting a home quarter-final is something we spoke about at the beginning of the year," the centre said.
Ulster's already long injury list grew further on Friday night as the inspirational Nick Williams, Craig Gilroy and Paddy Jackson all limped off.
Coach Anscombe paid tribute to the players who have come in as cover for some of his side's key leaders who were forced out of this crucial period of the season.
"I have only been here a short period of time but the fact is that the people have been around a while, if you said Ulster would have achieved these things without Stephen Ferris, Johann Muller and Tommy Bowe, I don't think a lot of people would have thought that was possible. That we did is a credit to all of the guys who are here," Anscombe said.
"After qualifying now, there is a long break before the quarters. Hopefully those other guys will be available."