Luke Marshall urges Ulster not to feel sorry for themselves after Euro exit
Luke Marshall, who features in a midfield combination with Tommy Bowe – an exciting potential summer Test pairing – against Connacht tonight as Ireland coach Joe Schmidt looks on, has declared that Ulster must stop feeling sorry for themselves after last week's agonising Heineken Cup exit.
Ulster are still counting the financial, emotional and physical cost – with a clutch of players now sidelined – of a controversial defeat to Saracens, marked by an early red for Jared Payne.
But, as they begin a sequence of three derbies in a month – their other remaining Pro12 game is against play-off rivals Glasgow – Marshall has insisted that they must re-gather their focus quickly for tasks ahead, rather than wallowing in despair at what has eluded them.
"It has all been very disappointing, but we've a massive game coming up, so the main mantra has been not to feel sorry for ourselves," he said.
"It would be very easy to wallow in misery at what happened to us. But we've massive games coming up in the run-in and if we go out feeling sorry for ourselves, there's a chance we could lose all four. We need to remember we've everything to play for in the league, and that's our focus now.
"We know we're still a good team. We believed we could beat Saracens with 15 men. And even with 14, we believed we could beat them. We probably had the chances to do that. So we still have a lot of confidence left.
"Munster and Ulster are there to be beaten and in our eyes they're at the same level, probably even better than Saracens, so it's not going to be difficult for us to get motivation.
"A home semi-final is still within reach. Leinster are probably going to take the top spot, so it's Munster we need to chase and we go there on the final day."
As well as Payne, Dan Tuohy, Rory Best, John Afoa, Roger Wilson and Ruan Pienaar are injured and they can afford to rest Stephen Ferris and Darren Cave.
Andrew Trimble has recovered swiftly from concussion. Meanwhile, Pat Lam brings forth an unchanged side for the fourth successive game, but Connacht haven't won at Ravenhill since 1960 and won't tonight either.
Ulster – R Andrew; A Trimble, T Bowe, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, P Marshall; A Warwick, R Herring, R Lutton, J Muller capt, I Henderson, R Diack, C Henry, N Williams.
Reps: N Annett, T Court, A Macklin, L Stevenson, S Doyle, M Heaney, J McKinney, S McCloskey.
Connacht – R Henshaw; T O'Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Carr; D Parks, K Marmion; D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, R Ah You; A Muldowney, M Kearney; J Muldoon capt, E Masterson, E McKeon. Reps: D Heffernan, R Loughney, F Bealham, M Swift, A Browne, F Murphy, M Nikora, D Leader.
REF – I Davies (WRU).
ULSTER V CONNACHT,
LIVE, BBC2 NORTHERN IRELAND, 7.05