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Ulster unlikely to withstand Munster backlash

THIS one could be over before it begins.

All indications are that Ulster talisman Stephen Ferris (pictured) will start and be given the chance to overcome his ankle ligament trouble.

The cushion of strapping and painkillers could be required to give Ferris the advantage of playing relatively pain free. If he is out and the equally doubtful Paul O'Connell is in for Munster, the omens will be dark for the northerners.

In reality, All Black tight-head John Afoa and the South African presence of Johann Muller, Pedrie Wannenburg and Ruan Pienaar are the other key components in Ulster's bid to make the semi-final for the first time since their glory year of 1999.

These carefully selected imports have accelerated Ulster's renewal in Europe.

They stand now where Leinster did in 1999.

They have taken just about all they can from seeing Munster and Leinster revel in epic Heineken Cup finals.

Australian Matt Williams was in charge when Ulster whipped Munster 37-11 at Thomond Park.

They have had their bad days there too, caving in 45-10 in the Magners League last season.

Ulster have won just 45 of their 100 Heineken Cup matches (45pc); Munster 86 of 121 (67pc). This is the measure of difference both clubs have made over the years.

However, you don't have to be a rugby coach to figure out that these matches are not played on paper.

They are as much about what is in the head as what is held in the heart.

Munster could be in the mood for a backlash from the Leinster defeat. Ulster could give them whiplash for all the times they have had to watch from the sidelines at this stage of the season.

Munster v Ulster, Thomond Park, Sunday 1.45 (Sky Sports 2)

Verdict: Munster