independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Wilson demands Ulster front up in bid to 'strangle Castres momentum'

Ulster's fears over a long injury list receded slightly, with Paddy Jackson, Jared Payne and Craig Gilroy listed in a provisional 26-man squad for their crucial Heineken Cup match Castres on Saturday.

Out-half Niall O'Connor and experienced hooker Nigel Brady return to a familiar-looking squad. Fly-half Jackson is responding to treatment for a turned ankle and Payne's groin pain has also eased, while Ulster are confident that Gilroy will be okay to return to action following a bang to the head against Glasgow last week.

With a tough test ahead of them up front at Stade Pierre Antoine, coach Mark Anscombe may bring in Neil McComb to partner Lewis Stevenson in the engine room and leave Iain Henderson on the bench, while with No 8 Nick Williams sidelined for eight weeks, Roger Wilson gets a chance to show why he returned to Ulster after four years at Northampton.

"It's all very well saying that we have qualified, but you want to get that home quarter-final," said 31-year-old Wilson, who says he is fully recovered from the hamstring injury that has hampered him this season.

"Playing at home in the last eight can be crucial. If we don't win on Saturday we could be facing a difficult away trip to either Clermont or Toulon, so there is no doubt that we will be going all out to secure a home quarter-final."

While with the Saints two seasons ago, Wilson faced a very similar situation to the one in front of Ulster this weekend, when they defeated Castres 23-12 in their final pool game.

"It was the same situation then as now. Northampton had qualified for the knockout stages but needed to win that last game away to Castres to be at home.

"At that stage, just like now, Castres had not lost a game at home. Traditionally French teams may not travel well, but in front of their home support they want to do very well, and perform for their crowd.

"They are very much a momentum side. If the ball is rolling with them they will be very difficult to stop. In terms of their game plan, it will be all up front.

"We will approach it they way we did against Northampton in the first game, with a strong set-piece and well-organised maul, so it is going to be a big effort for the forwards, but if we can nullify them in that department it will go a long way in winning the game.

"But it is up to us to strangle them and stop them gaining any momentum."

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