In-form Ulster prop Andy Warwick striving to be picture perfect against Toulouse

Andy Warwick during the Ulster Rugby Captain's Run at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photo: Eoin Smith/Sportsfile

Michael Sadlier

Scoring tries isn’t necessarily part of the brief, which is just as well for Ulster's Andy Warwick as last weekend’s close-in touchdown was the first he managed since collecting Peter Nelson’s pass and trotting over against Benetton in March 2015.

In fact, Warwick’s 59th-minute effort in Toulouse – a vital moment just minutes after coming off the bench – was only the second time he has planted the ball over the line in 151 appearances.

Yes, but then props have plenty of other primary responsibilities to attend to other than grabbing opportunities for glory.

There are the scrums to constantly work on, lineout positioning, what needs to be done to launch a maul, rucks to be visited, support lines to run, places to be in for carries, taking or making offloads and, of course, performing in the defensive line.

As Warwick points out, there is plenty of cramming to be done regardless of the opposition.

He has been doing a hefty amount of studying this term with 11 starts from the 14 games the Ballymena man has managed so far in this campaign, which has also seen him hit the 150-cap mark recently at the Bulls.

“I suppose personally this season has gone pretty well for me and I’ve got a good few starts,” he stated. “And that’s how you improve as a player, the more you play, the more you’re going to get on and you can build on that.”

It has by no means been a procession to get to this point either, with injuries and falling out of favour having previously punctuated Warwick’s career since making his debut in March 2013.

Stressing that he is, naturally, part of a collective effort, the 31-year-old loosehead, nevertheless, provided some pointers as to his current standing in the squad: “I’ve been going as hard as I can in training, and I’ve been doing more visualisation on what I need to be doing in those big moments in maul and scrum.

“I probably think through it all a little bit more and that helps prepare you for the games better.

“It doesn’t really change if you’re starting or on the bench as you could be on from minute one and I know you’d be disappointed you’re maybe not starting but your mindset can’t really change.”

Talking of which, there is another game to be won against Toulouse tomorrow evening and against the imposing presence of the gargantuan pack the reigning champions are able to put out.

“Obviously challenges like Toulouse and getting opportunities to play against players who are world-class is unbelievable and that’s what you want in your career,” Warwick pointed out.

“You want to win your own scrum and you don’t want to be conceding penalties. I think how we put it into them and maybe create a penalty and get a turnover is all about working as an eight. And that’s the only way we’ll make an impact against a team like Toulouse as they are so big.”

Whoever Warwick comes up against at scrum time he will have closely studied in terms of their technique and what way they like to set up and disrupt. Warwick is at least prepared to give some detail away about what it can be like dealing with the likes of Charlie Faumuina or Dorian Aldegheri.

“It’s small things like some people like to crank your arm and it’s what you do to combat that, and whether you can get in below their chest, but you learn off every scrum,” he said.

“Obviously those world-class players are the most consistent, that’s how you have to aim to be consistent in every scrum and that you’re well set up with your bind phase into every set.”