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'I don't have the hatred between myself and the other Irish ones' - Learning about inter-pro rivalries

Ulster’s Sam Carter says he has no concept of such rivalries having grown up in in Australia.

NORMALLY IN THE week of an inter-pro clash, players deal with the cliched questions of how much they are looking forward to playing against friends from the other Irish teams. For non-Irish players it is a different scenario.

Take, for instance, Ulster lock Sam Carter. The former Wallabies lock has no concept of what an inter-provincial rivalry is like having grown up in Australia and yet has no issue with getting fired up for a derby clash.

So, as Ulster prepare to dice with Leinster at Kingspan Stadium tomorrow (7.35pm) in a game that will decide top spot in the United Rugby Championship standings for the time being, what is the motivation for an import player at an Irish province?

“For me personally it’s a little bit different because I don’t have the history, the hatred or the rivalry between myself and the other Irish ones,” admits Carter.

“Leinster are one of the best teams and that’s when you want to show your best as well, you want to play against the best teams and compete and be your best against them because it’s a respect to them and you want to show that you can play at that level.”

Ulster have done that once already this season, their 20-10 win at the RDS Arena earlier in the campaign turning heads and suggesting that perhaps they aren’t as far off their eastern cousins as many might think.

On that occasion, few will argue that Ulster were deserved winners as tries from Greg Jones and James Hume led them to the four points, and a similar result tomorrow would really put the cat amongst the pigeons.

Still, it will be all for naught if they cannot back it up at the business end of the season, which we are slowly edging towards now. And, for all the talk that the gap between themselves and Leinster is closing, Carter is still convinced their rivals are the standard bearers.

“Leinster have been the benchmark for a while now, they’ve always been good with the strength of the team and the players they have,” he states.

“Have they lost a bit of the aura? I wouldn’t say that. But I think a lot of the other teams have caught up and are playing good footy. Munster are playing good footy, the two Scottish teams are playing well and we’re trying to make some news and lay our marker down as well, and to do that you have to beat teams like Leinster consistently.

“We’ve built a bit of momentum over the last five or six games but that doesn’t matter if guys don’t perform their jobs on Saturday.”

Part of that momentum has been down to the depth that Ulster have created, particularly at lock where Carter is competing for game-time with Ireland internationals Iain Henderson and Kieran Treadwell, as well as Alan O’Connor and exciting prospect Cormac Izuchukwu.

Against Cardiff last week the former Wallaby had to settle for a bench spot with Henderson and O’Connor in the run-on team, but he’s happy with sharing the load if it means they are continually driving the standards.

“It also creates that competitive environment because you can only have those three spots in a week and you’ve got blokes like Alan O’Connor, Kieran (Treadwell), obviously Ian as skipper as well. You have to be competitive in training, you have to produce when you get your opportunity otherwise you won’t be in the team,” he insists.

“It’s a really good mix, especially with some of the young guys coming through. They see the competitive environment and it only pushes them on, too.”

It will likely be in the pack that Ulster will face the biggest test against Leinster tomorrow but, given how well they performed defensively in Dublin at the tail end of last year, there will be no shortage of confidence in the Kingspan Stadium squad.

But then Ulster have only done the regular season double over Leinster once since the turn of the century, back in 2013, and back then they did the home leg first. This is a new test for this team and it is one that they will be keen to pass as part of their continued development.

And, unsurprisingly, Carter does reveal they will be drawing on the RDS win for the rematch, saying: “There’s a few things we’re taking from that game – the confidence of being able to beat Leinster down there being the main one.

“But they’ll be coming up here to show what they’re made of, which will make it a great contest. That’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

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