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Ulster should be proud of their physical effort - Roger Wilson

The blindside flanker was named man of the match after Ulster’s 22-16 win against Leicester in Pool 5 of the Heineken Cup.

Wilson gave a muscular performance in the win over Leicester.
Wilson gave a muscular performance in the win over Leicester.
Image: ©INPHO/Presseye/Brian Little

LAST SEASON WAS a testing time for Roger Wilson. The 32-year-old had decided to rejoin his home province after spending four years in England with Northampton, but injury problems meant he made just eight starts.

Hamstring issues made it a frustrating year for the Belfast native, but he is now fully fit and has started this season in excellent form. Wilson was named man of the match in Ulster’s 22-16 victory over Leicester in the Heineken Cup last night, just reward for a huge work-rate.

Playing with the number six on his back, the Ireland international made ten tackles in a ferocious defensive performance. Wilson’s work in the tight against a powerful Tigers pack was a crucial part of the manner in which the Ulster forwards battled back to finish the game on top up front. Wilson says they were expecting exactly that type of effort at Ravenhill.

“Games against Leicester are always very physical. They’re one of the top teams in the Premiership and the top teams in Europe. Historically they’ve set their foundations up front. We always knew it was going to be a tough, tough battle in that area.

“We knew as a forward pack that it was going to take a lot of energy and a lot of effort out of us to, not just match them, but to try and better them in that area.”

We talked about that, we knew it was going to take maybe 60, 70 minutes to wear them down. You saw it towards the end, a lot of the forwards were out on their feet. It was a great effort and a physical battle and the boys should be proud of it.”

Wilson has played the majority of his career at No. 8, but the continuing dynamism of Nick Williams means that Wilson has had to settle for being repositioned on the blindside flank. That clearly hasn’t affected his performance level and he claims to be happy to just be in the team.

“It’s not a massively different role. At the end of the day, I just want to get out on the pitch and I don’t think there’s a massive difference between the two. So if I’m picked in either position, I’m happy to do a job.

imageWilson collects his man of the match award last night. ©INPHO/Presseye/Brian Little.

“It’s a squad effort and I think throughout the year, boys are going to be asked to play different positions. It’s just a case of getting down and learning one or two new calls. But it’s gone well so far, so I’m happy enough.”

One impressive feature of Wilson’s performance last night was his speed in reacting to spilled ball, of which there was much. Both sides were guilty of poor handling on occasions, but Wilson was invariably one of the first men onto the scene whenever there was scrappy possession to be cleaned up. He admits to being content with that aspect of his team’s display.

There was a fair bit of kicking done and there were a few knock ons, but I thought we did well to react to those. We were first down on the ball most of the time. But yeah, maybe just a bit of first-up reaction went our way. I think we dominated that area, we were slightly quicker to react.”

Ulster will be satisfied to have four points in the bag after the first round of Heineken Cup action, even if there were several try-scoring chances left unconverted last night. Pool 5 rivals Montpellier play Treviso this afternoon, and Ulster will be watching closely ahead of their trip to France next weekend. Wilson has been impressed with what he has seen of Fabien Galthié’s men.

“They’re flying high at the minute. This week was physical and I think next week’s going to be another step up again. They’ve torn apart some of the top French teams in the last few weeks. I think this group is one where you’re never going to look to go out and get four tries and bonus points as far as that.

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“Each game is tough, and it’s very difficult to see too far in the future, but I think it could literally go down to the last week. It’s going to be very tight, and certainly we’ll be looking to get the victory.”

YouTube credit: RVids Highlights

Additional reporting by Megan Joyce.

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