“They hurt us when we were down there in Thomond Park, and there were a few young fellas playing who didn’t get the best experience of representing their province.
“We want to put out a performance this Friday night at home to Munster that really demonstrates what an interprovincial game means to us.”
Ulster head coach Dan McFarland, buoyed by his team’s back-to-back Champions Cup wins over Scarlets, is hoping that there might be something like Pro14 redemption this weekend.
In late September his squad, mired in injury and minus its international contingent, went down 64-7 in an embarrassingly one-sided contest at Thomond Park.
“We’ve found some form, got a little momentum in Europe and we’re totally focused on what is a tricky sequence of interpro fixtures,” McFarland said yesterday.
The Ulster boss admitted that the loss of Lions lock Iain Henderson to thumb surgery on Monday was a huge blow to the squad, and to the Irish international, who had been in excellent form.
“Iain’s been playing some good rugby, and he’s one of or leaders, but we adapt to these circumstances as all teams must,” he said, and indicated loanee and former Munster man Ian Nagle might well fill the second-row vacancy alongside Kieran Treadwell in the continuing absence of Alan O’Connor.
McFarland has a genuine affection for this period of the season and for the interpro matches.
“When I was playing for Connacht, my early recollections are of a 3-3 draw with Munster, then a 3-0 loss to Munster, all in howling gales, and then a good win at Leinster. They’re intense affairs, brother on brother, and people say they’re almost Irish trials, and the players love that, they love that intensity.
“If they didn’t they’d stand out like a sore thumb.”
McFarland had hoped Mattie Rea – who can cover as a lock – might have been available but he’s had a setback in his recovery, but he is likely to field a strong side against a Munster XV which, under Johann van Graan, he knows will be anxious to put last weekend’s Champions Cup defeat in Castres behind them in the Glasgow in the Pro14’s Conference A.
Ulster have squeezed into third spot in Conference B, and McFarland’s insistence on approaching every game, no matter what the competition, with real focus and desire appears to have dramatically improved morale and confidence at Kingspan. Even if he is considering Christmas Day training next week.