Ireland wing Andrew Trimble will reach a new milestone and etch out his own little bit of history tomorrow when he will becomes the first Ulster player to play 200 games when old foes Munster ride into town for an important Pro12 inter-provincial derby at the Kingspan Stadium.
The 31-year-old from Coleraine made his debut back in 2005, helping Ulster to a 25-22 win over Cardiff at the Arms Park. He has since rattle up 335 points from 67 tries for his province and is part of an unchanged backline to face Munster from the one that squeezed out 10-3 away success over Connacht last weekend.
The four changes up front see internationals Rory Best and Chris Henry returning to duty while Lewis Stevenson joins Franco van der Merwe at lock and exciting young prop Kyle McCall returning at loose-head.
Trimble, who has made 58 appearances for Ireland scoring 16 tries, says it has been a roller-coaster life on the rugby field for him.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs along the way,” said Trimble, who despite sweeping the honours board last season, failed to make the World Cup squad mainly due to lack of game time following toe surgery last summer.
“I’ve had such a great time playing for Ulster since I was 20 years of age, and hopefully it can continue for a few more years.
“It will be something special playing against Munster too. But I don’t want to be distracted by the fact that it’ll be my 200th game.
“It is important to me and to the team, I’m sure, but it is more important that we go out and continue to keep playing the type of rugby we are playing at the moment. Hopefully, if we get the weather, we can play an entertaining brand of rugby and attempt to stretch Munster.
“But we have to be wary. Munster are reeling from a run of loses, and you can certainly expect a backlash. Sides like Munster are unbelievably proud and they are going to come up to Belfast with all guns blazing.
“In many ways, they are like us in the past in that they are not too far off clicking. They holding on to the ball well, taking teams through width with a lot of pace, so I can foresee it won’t take long before they get it together - hopefully not this weekend though, as we want to continue or good run at present.”
Trimble wants to put down a marker for Joe Schmidt’s Six Nations squad after missing out on the World Cup.
“Joe wants to see guys play well in Europe and a step down from that is the inter-provincial games where the intensity is so high and he wants to see how you cope with that.
“I don’t think he buys too much into head-to-heads. I think if you are doing small things right, looking after little details and making sure you do the things that he values right, that’s what matters.”
Trimble also knows what to expect from his international colleagues at Munster. “I know more than most how fast they are, what their skills sets are, and just what a big threat they will be to us. Personally, although I missed out most of last season with injury, the season before around this time, I found myself getting a bit of momentum when the inter-provincials are on.
“It’s a great time of the year, where everyone is at home and the intensity is through the roof and usually a great day out!
“Hopefully we can put on a show and pick up where we left off. We have to patient in defence, physical, hold our width and above all be clever. If we can do all the small things right, put them together as we have done the last four weeks in putting in big performances.
“This game on Saturday is another big one, it will put us under pressure, but when you have a bit of momentum it helps. Munster will not be easy, they will come well prepared and we will just have to match them in every department.”
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