Stuart McCloskey has claimed Ulster must assemble a squad with the same depth as Leinster and Saracens in order to seriously challenge for trophies.
Ulster are building up a head of steam with 11 wins from 14 games this season, and are four from four in the Champions Cup. A win away to Clermont on Saturday, admittedly a big ask, would see them top their pool and in with a great chance of a first home quarter-final since 2014.
McCloskey sees a marked improvement in the quality and depth of their squad as integral to their development as a coming force.
“Who’s won it (Champions Cup) over the last few years?
“Leinster and Saracens, who you’d say have the biggest squads in Europe.
“That’s the way you do it. If you want to fight on both fronts, in the PRO14 and in Europe, you have to have a big squad with a lot of good players.
“We have a lot of young guys that we maybe didn’t have two or three years ago, who we know can come in and do a job.
“It pushes myself and Lukey and Will (Addison) to that next level, which we didn’t have in previous years.”
McCloskey’s own form has been a big reason for Ulster’s good results, forging a strong defensive midfield unit alongside Luke Marshall, while ball-carrying and line-breaks remain a vital part of his game. They haven’t lost at home game since October 2018 and while wins in France are hard to come by, and they’ll remember going down 44-12 at Racing 92 last season, they look far more imposing one season on.
They also have confidence and belief in the game-plan.
“There are a lot of guys in good form.
“When you have this collective group of players who have probably won seven or eight games in a row, there’s nothing not to be confident about.
“Hopefully we can carry that confidence on to next week because a home quarter-final is what we aim for.”