Intense Ulster training takes us out of our comfort zone, says Marshall
Ulster's finely-tuned training ground regime has helped to ward off complacency on the field of play this term, according to Luke Marshall.
Indeed, high levels of concentration were to the fore in the closing minutes of the opening period in last Friday's clash with Connacht when the visitors put together 35 phases in close proximity to Ulster's line, but couldn't find a way through.
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White shirts made hit after hit, draining confidence and energy from the opposition. Doing so with Rob Herring sin-binned made that achievement all the more admirable.
It was impressive stuff from Ulster and Marshall put it down to the intensive bursts of training being done under head coach Dan McFarland's gaze.
Winning his 136th cap tonight, the 28-year-old centre explained: "Sometimes, say, if we're doing a defence session some of the targets nearly are unrealistic because we're trying to take ourselves out of our comfort zone.
"(Defence coach) Jared (Payne) would be pretty keen on that.
"He'd be happy if we come out of a defence session feeling nearly uncomfortable, nearly feeling a bit low on confidence because we've been tested so much rather than, I suppose, nearly strolling through it and finding it easy.
"Dan has done great work with us and he has sort of instilled that confidence through work-rate and competitiveness at training and it is certainly seeping into our match day performances."
And Marshall is certain that the creation of such team spirit has helped bring about an 18-game unbeaten run at Kingspan Stadium.
"I think it is something down to the culture Dan has tried to instil since he has been here," Marshall explained. "Sort of corny as it sounds, playing for the badge, and playing for the province, he has really bought into that and pushed us to buy into it. I think Dan has done it really well."
Marshall has missed only two games so far in this campaign - a sign of his fitness and form.
"There have been a few stages earlier on in the season when Dan has said to me 'do you want a rest?'
"But I've always been keen to play," he says before referring to the virtual year he missed out on after suffering an ACL injury in May 2018.
"One of the benefits of having a serious injury before is that I effectively got a year of rest and I think that has enabled me to play a bit longer this season and play more repeat games."