THE LOSS WAS always going to come – the nature of enforced line-up changes dictates it – but Ulster are determined to start off another winning run.
Mark Anscombe’s men are tasked with a tough home encounter against a Scarlets side that lie second in the table and will be close to full strength.
The Ravenhill setting will hearten an Ulster side that have lost two of their last three games following a 13-game unbeaten run that was ended by Northampton Saints in the Heineken Cup.
In fact, Ulster have three consecutive home games slated for decision and will not play another Pro12 away game until 22 February.
“That’s the thing about our good start,” Ulster captain Chris Henry told TheScore.ie, “we’ll take where we are sitting now.
“If you had asked us at the start of the season if we would like to be clear at the top of the table we would have jumped at it.
“We can’t ease off though because as soon as you take your foot off the pedal you get complacent.”
Scarlets are without Matthew Rees or Ken Owens for the top-of-the-table clash in Belfast but they have lethal Welsh internationals George North and Jonathan Davies in the backline.
They also arrive with an impressive away record in the Pro12 having won five of seven dates away from Parc Y Scarlets, including wins over Connacht and Munster.
“They are not second for nothing,” Henry warned.
“We’ve got to make sure we put in a top performance to get the four points on offer.” He added:
It is hard not to peer ahead to the Heineken Cup [next weekend] but we are a team that has kept its focus well this season and [tonight] will be no different.”
Ulster will have to do without Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe for the challenges that lie ahead but have been bolstered by the returns of Lewis Stenson, Dan Tuohy and fullback Adam D’Arcy – the trio all start tonight.
Henry commented, “Adam has been unfortunate with injuries and with Jared [Payne] playing so well it was always going to be tough with him to get straight back into the team.
“I really enjoy playing with him. He loves to run the ball and is sometimes guilty of trying too much but every team needs players that will take the game to the opposition.”
Henry, who made a significant breakthrough with the Ireland squad in the November Series, is looking forward to ‘an exciting battle’ at Ravenhill.
He said, “Whichever team comes out on top will be determined on what backline can make the biggest impact.
Whoever can supply the fastest ball to their backs should come out on top.
“When the opportunities come e are going to attack. That is the mindset we are going to go out with, and have all season.”
Chris Henry chats to TheScore.ie on Skype.
If results go their way this weekend, Ulster could go into the league’s January break with a points lead in double figures. The prospect has not quelled Henry’s ambitions.
He said, “We haven’t won anything or done anything yet.
“We are in a great situation but it won’t matter at the end of the season if we come up with nothing.
“Finals and semi-finals are where we want to be; that is our main motivation.
“If we don’t do that then the start we made doesn’t account to much.”