Matt Faddes is one of of the few players who won’t be burdened this weekend by Ulster’s many crushing RDS defeats by Leinster.
The Kiwi seemed blissfully unaware yesterday about just how bad Ulster’s record is away to PRO14 champions Leinster, the team having won just once — in 2013 — in the last 20 years.
But he knows enough about the rivalry to know it’s a fixture to remember and believes it’s similar to what he experienced back home in Super Rugby when playing for his former team, the Highlanders, in New Zealand.
“Crusaders and ourselves are the only two teams in South Island so it was always nice to play them,” he says.
“To be fair, I don’t really know too much about the results between Ulster and Leinster in the last few years but Crusaders have been the most successful team in the last three years, though Highlanders probably held their own a wee bit against them.
“There always seems to be a bit more sting in the tackles in derby games, a bit more passion in the week leading into it.
I know Leinster won’t be taking us lightly, that’s why they are a quality side, they respect the opposition, but we don’t want to put them on too much of a pedestal and be gun-shy, that’s for sure.
“Obviously it’s my first time down there so we’ll go with an open mind. It will be a massive challenge, they’ve probably set the benchmark for the last couple of years in Europe and the PRO14 so, we’re excited to get down there and start off the festive season well.”
Faddes, 28, has scored five tries in his nine appearances for Ulster this season but was disappointed to miss out on the Champions Cup games away to Bath and at home to Clermont because of what he describes “a crooked shoulder and crooked knee”.
He has flitted between fullback, wing and outside centre in his short time at Kingspan Stadium and doesn’t mind the variety because as a versatile player, it is something he’s grown used to.
“I’ve been doing it for a few years, it can be quite fun really and every position has different jobs – though it does mean I take on a little more homework. Especially if you’re sitting on the bench and you’re covering all three (positions) but like the wing with the insides we’ve got and the game-style we play, it makes it an enjoyable place for sure, even in the rain.”
Ulster were involved in a superb Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium in the spring, which they could have won, but were hammered 40-7 on their last PRO14 trip to Dublin.
So will Friday night be the same old story?
“I hope not... that’s definitely not the plan,” added Faddes. “We feel like we’re going to have a good team to head down and really compete and I suppose set the tone for what will be an exciting Friday night.”