Marshall seeking Kidney call
Ulster scrum-half Paul Marshall is determined to break into Declan Kidney's Irish squad after impressing in his side's recent Heineken Cup double headers against Clermont and Leicester.
After setting aside a troubling October league campaign for both himself and province, the 26-year-old is seeking to maximise his time in the starting line-up while expensive Springbok recruit Ruan Pienaar remains sidelined through injury.
"Certainly Ruan is a great player, the most high-profile player we've ever had at Ulster," says the former Methodist College pupil, who has represented the Ireland U-21 and 'A' teams already.
"There were times last year when he got us out of jail on a few occasions. But I know I need to take every opportunity, because I want to see myself playing for Ulster and I have ambitions beyond that as well. So, I need to keep putting in performances.
"I want to play for Ireland and that should be every player's goal. If you look at the scrum-half position in Ireland now compared to three or four years ago, there's a lot more competition.
"Suddenly a lot of guys have done really well and performed for Ireland whenever they've been called upon. So, that's a really strong position for Ireland now, not a weak one. That shows the ability we have here.
"I need to be selfish because I want to wear that green jersey as well, but I need to make sure I'm putting in performances for Ulster first and foremost. I just want to get my name mentioned in those management circles."
Despite their improved performances in the Heineken Cup, breaking a run of four successive defeats in the Pro12 League that was only ended with a home win against Connacht, defeat in Leicester last weekend has left them marooned in both league tables.
Ulster clearly benefit from a player of Pienaar's class and it appears a return to the first team may be pencilled in for as early as next weekend -- so time is ticking for Marshall to impress.
"I started the season reasonably well, but then, myself included, nobody was firing after that and we struggled with leadership issues when our World Cup players were away," Marshall added. "If the team does well, individuals do well. I wasn't happy with my form, but then a lot of players felt that way.
"Hopefully, the Heineken Cup performances can kick us on because we need to improve our league position."
Ulster have taken the decision to rest Irish internationals Stephen Ferris and Rory Best for tomorrow's trip to Firhill to face Glasgow Warriors due to the large number of games they've played in recent months.
However, both Andrew Trimble and Tom Court will be available. Luke Marshall (jaw) and Jerry Cronin (neck) have returned to training after a number of weeks on the sidelines and may be in contention for some game time this weekend.
Callum Black could make his competitive debut for the province after recovering from a neck injury.