Sport Rugby

Thursday 22 March 2018

Muller hopes 'wake-up call' can see Ulster finish season with a flourish

Ulster's long injury list has finally been whittled down, with only Tommy Bowe and Luke Marshall absent ahead of Saturday's Pro12 clash with Leinster at the RDS.

Ulster have Test players Chris Henry, Iain Henderson, Rory Best, Ruan Pienaar, Roger Wilson and Craig Gilroy reporting for derby duty, with Bowe not far from entering the fray. Marshall is due back next week following his concussion protocol routine.

The only fit front-line player absent is World Cup-winning tight-head John Afoa, who has returned to Auckland to be at his wife's side for the birth of their third child.

The former All Black, who has been a key player for Ulster all season, is due to hop on a plane back to Belfast next Tuesday in time for the Heineken Cup quarter-final tie against Saracens at Twickenham.

Skipper Johann Muller (below), now back after his third spell on the sidelines this season, hopes Ulster's dip in form can be rectified.

"Results-wise it has not been good," said Muller, who hasn't played a full game since the Heineken Cup meeting with Glasgow back in October.

"We have not been playing clever rugby. We have managed to scrape a couple of wins here and there, but it is far from the way we were performing earlier in the season.

"It has been quite a wake-up call for everybody – and not just the players but management as well. Everybody had a good look at themselves over the weekend and realised that we are at the business end of the season and the next two weeks will define it.

"What is going wrong? Well if anyone actually knew what was wrong, it would be easy to fix.

"Confidence in sport is a massive thing. You lose a bit of confidence and then you struggle a little to get that confidence back.

"We have to get that real edge, the sharpness and excitement back again. We know we have the talent and ability to do that and so far this week sessions have been unbelievable with almost a fully-fit squad together again.

"This week is really important from the perspective of getting everyone back into some game time. The way we play and the result on Saturday are massively important to us."

Ulster (squad v Leinster)– N McComb, C Black, R Best, R Diack, C Henry, D Tuohy, L Stevenson, J Muller, N Williams, R Herring, K McCall, R Lutton, T Court, I Henderson, R Wilson; R Pienaar, J Payne, C Gilroy, P Marshall, P Nelson, M Heaney, P Jackson, S Olding, D Cave, A Trimble.

Irish Independent

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