Marshall relishing rare chance to step out of Pienaar's shadow
IT'S not an easy situation to tip-toe around, but Paul Marshall addresses the natural order of things -- Ruan Pienaar normally being ahead of him in Ulster's scrum-half pecking order -- with an expected candour regarding his approach to sizeable periods of time watching before being sprung from the bench.
"If you are on the bench, your mindset can be different depending on how the game has gone, so it's a bit trickier than starting where you get the feel for the game," Marshall (28) explains.
"Something I have learned over the last few years is that if you try too hard, it doesn't work. If you try to force things more often than not it doesn't come off, so you just have to play your own game."
It is a tricky enough balancing act for Marshall, who is closing in on his 120th Ulster appearance, but tonight he gets a chance to start, with Pienaar benched.
He will link up with Paddy Jackson again, a half-back combination that was last seen in late November's Pro12 game at Zebre, and allows Marshall (right) to feature alongside a player whose form and influence is clearly on the rise.
"I think he is a smashing player and he has had a great season so far," says Marshall.
"He has matured massively over the last 18 months and he is knocking on the door of the Irish team. He is very composed and I like playing with him."
Marshall won his third cap -- all have been off the bench -- against Canada last June just months after his first was finally secured in Ireland's Six Nations defeat to Italy.
"I'm a bit down the pecking order and I don't think I can look too far ahead as regards that," he says.
"I maybe haven't set the world alight this year but I don't think I have played badly and maybe I haven't had some of the highlights I've had over the last year or two which can sometimes get your name mentioned and get you attention.
"But I've been steady enough and if I can put in a few solid performances over the next few weeks you never know."
As for tonight's challenge in Dublin, Marshall is undaunted, saying: "When we turn up and play well we can beat any team in the league. It comes down to our own mindset, but if we're in the right place mentally, we'll be fine.
"We've had five wins on the bounce. It doesn't get much bigger than Leinster, Munster and rounds five and six of the Heineken.
"It's certainly competitive when the provinces play against each other and around Christmas there is always an added incentive to try and get one up on those guys."