New Ulster coach Mark Anscombe is not going to beat himself up over not having his internationals available at certain times of the season under the IRFU player management programme.
He knew the score when he signed on for the job and, in common with the rest of the provincial coaches, has proceeded to get on with things, hoping it will prove to be advantageous with young players coming in tosupplement an already talented squad.
With only Tom Court, Paul Marshall and Darren Cave of the current international batch available for Friday’s RaboDirect Pro12 opener against Glasgow at Ravenhill, Anscombe will again have to rely on a youthful supplement that already served notice in an unbeaten pre-season run.
“I’m not worried about it. You can let it get to you and be frustrated, but it is what it is and it is out of our control. It’s not only players from international duty eased back into things, but players returning from surgery, but that’s part of the game so we just have to get on with it. We have known for some time of the situation, so we are comfortable where we are it,” explained Anscombe, who is just as excited as the players about entering a new season.
“Yeah, I’m excited,” said Anscombe, who named a 26-man squad that includes at least nine under-23s. “We have been going nine weeks now and this is what it is all about. It’s always good to start any competition with a win and being at home it is exciting. I think the guys are really up for it,”
Anscombe though, was not particularly pleased with the 24-20 win over Newcastle Falcons last Friday.
“We just let ourselves down,” he said. “The energy or the urgency was not there.
“I have been very impressed with the attitude of the players to take an opportunity, their work ethic and the ability to take new things on board and to have a positive mind set. They have been told that they will be given the opportunity if they perform and they have started to believe that,” said Anscombe.
“In the first few games you have mainly got to look at ourselves as we have limited images of the likes of Glasgow. They have recruited well, new coaches like ourselves, new players, so you would be silly to expect them to be the same as last year. But they will want to build on last season when they reached the semi-final stages of the competition and had a successful team and will be formidable opposition, so I expect we will have to be on top of our game to get the right result.
“At present we have 14 guys out injured or unavailable for one thing or another, so that’s what it is, we need the young guys to step up, because that’s who we have left.”
Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris, who both underwent surgery during the summer, are not yet up to speed, while Paddy Wallace, Roger Wilson and Dan Tuohy are still rehabbing and unlikely to feature until October. Rory Best and Ian Henderson may be sidelined for another four weeks.
Meanwhile, Friday will be Anscombe’s first big competitive match at Ravenhill, but he knows what home advantage means.
“It was good to have our last two pre-season games at home and there was over 7,000-plus at each game. For someone new coming in, it’s great to have that support for the team. If you can improve on that and get the crowd out on Friday it will kick-start the boys. If the games get tough and down to the wire, it’s amazing how the home crowd helps.
“If you watched the Olympics, the successes of the GB team, and spoke to some the athletes that were successful, it was the support that made the difference in the end. We have obviously great support here and they lift the guys, so we have to give them performances in order that they come back.”
ULSTER squad: (Forwards): N Annett, A Macklin, C Black, J Afoa, L Stevenson, N McComb, M McComish, Jo Muller (capt), R Diack, S Doyle, N Williams, R Herring, T Court, N Brady, D Fitzpatrick.
(Backs): P Nelson, J Payne, N O’Connor, M Heaney, C Gilroy, P Jackson, L Marshall, P Marshall, C Farrell, M Allen, D Cave.
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