Tuesday 26 September 2017

Marshall determined to lift Ulster's fortunes

Cardiff Blues v Ulster, Live, Sky Sports, 5.15

Luke Marshall:
Luke Marshall: "If we lift our level of performance then we’re good enough to start winning games." Photo: Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

After an impressive November series for Ireland, Luke Marshall is perhaps only one of a select handful in the squad who were left with a tinge of regret.

Having come away from last summer's South Africa tour with plenty of credit, the Ulster centre was in the wider squad for Chicago despite a disrupted season but did not travel Stateside when the panel was pared down.

He did line out at inside-centre when his former Ulster boss Mark Anscombe brought his Canada side to Dublin. And things got off to an ideal start when he scored his second Test try.

Two minutes later, though, his day turned on a dime, throwing an intercept that allowed Scarlets flier DTH van der Merwe in for a score.

The moment was mentioned by Schmidt post-match and, when the squads were named for the New Zealand rematch and the Australia clash, Marshall was left out.

Even when Robbie Henshaw, Stuart Olding and, potentially Jared Payne, were unavailable last week, it was the uncapped Rory Scannell placed on stand-by while Marshall prepared for Ulster's ultimately postponed clash with Zebre.

Frustrating

"It was a bit frustrating personally, not to be involved in the bigger games, but that's the way it is," said the nine-times capped 25-year-old.

"Everyone always says it but whether you play the games or not, if you're training in camp with Joe and those coaches then you come back a better player. That's the way you have to look at it."

And so, with a run of provincial games to come over the next two months, Marshall turns his attention to Ulster's flagging Guinness Pro12 campaign.

For the first time since 2011/12 the province have lost three consecutive league games. With back-to-back European fixtures against Clermont looming, Marshall has called for the side to kick-start an upturn in fortunes against Cardiff Blues tonight.

"We've not been good enough and it's got to change," he said bluntly. "If we lift our level of performance then we're good enough to start winning games."

Ulster's hopes have been lifted by the return of six senior figures, with Chris Henry set for his first appearance of the campaign and Stuart McCloskey back in the centre after missing more than two months with a broken foot.

Iain Henderson is in at blindside, with Darren Cave, Rodney Ah You and Louis Ludik set to make comebacks from the bench.

Cardiff Blues - B Scully; A Cuthbert, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, T James; S Shingler, L Williams; G Jenkins (capt), K Dacey, T Filise, G Earle, J Turnbull, E Jenkins, S Warburton, J Navidi. Reps: M Rees, R Gill, S Andrews, J Hoeata, M Cook, T Williams, N Robinson, M Morgan

Ulster - C Piutau; T Bowe, L Marshall, S McCloskey, C Gilroy; B Herron, R Pienaar; K McCall, R Herring (capt), W Herbst; P Browne, F van der Merwe; I Henderson, C Henry, S Reidy. Reps: J Andrew, A Warwick, R Ah You, K Treadwell, C Ross, P Marshall, L Ludik, D Cave.

Ref - A Brace (IRFU)

Irish Independent

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