Bowe: We have to silence raucous Clermont crowd
When the final whistle sounded on last Saturday's enthralling win over Clermont, the scenes of celebration were widespread among the Ulster players.
Iain Henderson let out a primal roar, an exhausted Luke Marshall sunk to his knees, while Clive Ross just shook his head at the events of the previous 80 minutes in their 39-32 victory. Tommy Bowe simply raised a lone first in celebration before going to congratulate his team-mates.
Having endured a torrid time coming back from the serious knee injury sustained in Ireland's quarter-final defeat to Argentina in 2015, last weekend's win was the like of which Bowe often wondered if he would get to experience again when his rehab was at its most arduous.
"It was my first proper European game (back), and when you're out injured those are the games you miss the most," said the Monaghan man.
"After the match was the happiest I've felt in a long time because it's hard to replicate the pressure going into those games and the joy of beating a big team like Clermont.
"There's a lot of times I was stuck in that gym staring at the four walls and thinking it was never going to end, days where the knee felt bad and wondering whether it was all worth it any more.
"Whenever you get to go out there and sprint on the pitch without worrying about your knee, and to come away with the win 100pc makes it worth it."
Bowe knows better than most the challenge that awaits tomorrow for the return visit to Stade Marcel-Michelin having played and indeed scored at one of Europe's most raucous venues during his days with the Ospreys.
"I've been lucky to play in a few of the French grounds but Clermont is right up there.
"They're very passionate supporters and the atmosphere, especially when they get their tails up and things are going well for them, they can ramp it up and get on the opposition's back. Likewise, they were very quiet when we put them under a lot of pressure and that's what we'll have to try and do this weekend."
Director of rugby Les Kiss has been forced into only one change after confirming that Robbie Diack will be out for between two and four weeks but has retained the remainder of his 23-man panel. Franco van der Merwe returns in his place to the second-row where he will partner Pete Browne.
"The bottom line is what we delivered last week we should expect every time we go out and play," said Kiss.
Ulster - C Piutau; T Bowe, L Marshall, S McCloskey, L Ludik; P Jackson, R Pienaar; K McCall, R Best (capt), W Herbst; P Browne, F van der Merwe; I Henderson, C Henry, S Reidy. Reps: R Herring, A Warwick, R Ah You, K Treadwell, C Ross, P Marshall, D Cave, J Stockdale.
Clermont - I Toeava; N Nakaitaci, R Lamerat, W Fofana, N Abendanon; C Lopez, M Parra; E Falgoux, B Kayser, D Zirakashvili; A Iturria, S Vahaamahina; V Kolelishvili, A Lapandry, D Chouly (capt). Reps: J Ulugia, T Domingo, M Simutoga, F van der Merwe, P Yato, L Radosavljevic, P Fernandez, A Rougerie.
Clermont v Ulster, live,
Sky Sports 4, tomorrow 3.05