Ulster's foreign ops...
Johann Muller's captaincy exudes calm authority, while Ruan Pienaar and John Afoa are commanding presences at scrum-half and prop respectively. The combined overseas experience is an invaluable tool for Brian McLaughlin, particularly when he is without his Ireland figureheads Rory Best, Stephen Ferris and Andrew Trimble.
Building their side around big-name foreigners makes Ulster a more marketable commodity with Pienaar, Muller and now Afoa capturing the imagination of the Ulster supporters. They may not have come cheap, but there are definite commercial benefits.
Pienaar and Afoa are world-class operators, while Muller is a seasoned performer and quality second-row. The presence of the overseas brigade has made Ulster more competitive in the Heineken Cup and Pro12 league, which raises standards throughout the
Much more than the other provinces, Ulster are reliant on their overseas brigade to get results and, consequently, are nowhere near the same force if their imported linchpins are unavailable.
2 IRISH ALTERNATIVES
Key positions in the Ulster side are filled by non-Irish qualified players which is holding back the likes of Willie Faloon, Paul Marshall, Paddy McAllister and Chris Henry (not able to play in his best position of No 8 due to Pedrie Wannenburg).
3 TOM COURT
The most crucial position in Irish rugby is tight-head prop and if anything were to happen to Mike Ross, Court is next in line. The problem for Declan Kidney is that Court has been playing most of his rugby for Ulster at loose-head, first to accommodate BJ Botha and now Afoa.