Muller: O’Connell is one of the best

Ulster second row and captain Johann Muller admits that he will be facing one of the best locks in the world if Paul O’Connell is named in Munster’s starting XV for Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final in Thomond Park.

Ulster second row and captain Johann Muller admits that he will be facing one of the best locks in the world if Paul O’Connell is named in Munster’s starting XV for Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final in Thomond Park.

South African Muller, who has 24 caps for the Springboks, has enjoyed some gripping battles with O’Connell since joining Ulster in 2010.

He believes the Munsterman’s leadership will be a huge boost and ensure that everyone is on top of their game.

"I've played a couple of games against him and Paul is one of the best, if not the best, locks I've played against,” Muller said.

“He's a great rugby player, an outstanding leader and he brings so much.

“He lifts everyone around him and is massive for Munster. I'm looking forward to playing against him.

“He will make sure Munster are right up there, fully committed and they will come flying out of the changing room."

Last season marked Ulster’s first return to the Heineken Cup quarter finals since winning the tournament in 1999 but they lost out to eventual finalists Northampton Saints.

After an impressive first half display Ulster came undone when Northampton’s dangerous paring of Chris Ashton and Ben Foden combined well before sending Lee Dickson over for a crucial try.

But Muller feels the experience his side gained in last season’s defeat as well as the lessons learned from difficult games away to Clerment and Leicester Tigers will stand to them on Sunday.

"We were leading at half-time against Northampton last year but in the second-half our first phase went to pieces.

“We have to take those lessons on board. We've learnt a lot and it's about making sure we don't make the same mistakes again.

“We've now got that experience of a quarter final and know what it takes."

“The amount of experience we gained in Clermont, where there was an unbelievable atmosphere was brilliant.

“That takes us a step forward in going to Limerick and makes a difference."

Traditionally one of the toughest venues in Europe, Thomond Park doesn’t always have the same fear factor over other Irish provinces who are familiar with the ground and the atmosphere.

Having breezed to a 33-17 win over Tony McGahan’s men in Ravenhill already this season, Ulster won’t fear the opposition on Sunday and Muller insists that his team are ready for the challenge.

"We've played [in Thomond Park] many times before, we know the circumstances, the noise and how the crowd will behave.

“But it's between four lines and what happens on the field."

"The players are really excited, the vibe is right up there and everyone knows how big an occasion it is. The tough thing is going to be keeping everyone calm.”

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