Callum Black would love nothing more than to leave Ulster in the same shape he found them back in 2012. And he aims to help move things in that direction tomorrow evening in a vital Guinness PRO14 game at the Kingspan Stadium against a revitalised Ospreys side.
When the loosehead prop arrived in Belfast Ulster went on to reach the Heineken Cup final, but the province now finds themselves struggling both in Europe and with the bread and butter competition.
While winning their final four games could see Ulster pip Edinburgh for a play-off place in Conference B and guarantee a Champions Cup spot. And before he heads back to the Worcester Warriors, Black is determined to give everything to dig Ulster out of their current hole.
“I have loved my time at Ulster. My family have loved it here, and my two daughters were born here, so it is a special place,” said the popular Washington DC-born 32-year-old, who owns a Belfast café with Darren Cave.
“In my first year we got to the Heineken Cup final, but I started the year with a neck injury and I didn’t play too much.
“I watched the boys progress to the final (against Leinster at Twickenham) and that actually spurred me on even more as I wanted to be in this winning team.”
Ulster’s fortunes have dipped in recent seasons but Black believes the current crop of players still have plenty to offer.
“We’d been on a bad run of results recently,” explained Black. “The Edinburgh game showed people that there is a good buzz about the boys and it was great to get the win. Edinburgh away has always been a pretty tough fixture, we put in a good performance and probably even left a bit out there as we could have put a few more points on the board.
“We took confidence from that, but we know there are areas to improve on, and it is back to the next job. It was a confidence boost but we can’t dwell on it.
“Rory (Best) mentioned in training you can train the way you did in the lead up to Edinburgh. We trained and played well and you just can’t sit back and think it will happen again. It’s raising the standards every day we come to training and the squad is fully aware.
“They are on a good run. If their big players play well, they play well, so we’ll need to front up and it is a huge test.
“Personally now it is just about what I can do for the team and finish on a high. There is a bit more incentive for myself, and I will be giving everything.”
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