Callum Black ready for Ulster’s challenge at Thomond Park

Ulster's Callum Black with Gareth Robinson:, Head Physiotherapist, when he damaged his ankle
Ulster's Callum Black with Gareth Robinson:, Head Physiotherapist, when he damaged his ankle

Callum Black was hoping to be eased back into rugby after a six-week absence due to an ankle injury but after Tom Court was red carded last week against Leinster he was pressed into action on 16 minutes.

“First game back being on the bench and then you see the ref going to the big screen and you are not sure which card is going to come out,” said Black.

“I wasn’t expecting the 65 minutes but it was good to get a run out, it was a bit of fitness work and be back in the side.

“The ankle felt ok, I was out for five weeks and I had a good two weeks leading up to it on the pitch where I did a lot of units and was able to strengthen it (ankle).”

In spite of at times having Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne acting as emergency backrow’s Black was happy with how the scrum went against Leinster.

“We’ve looked back at the game and there were one or two scrums where we were caught.

“But then again being a man down we did well to hold our own and even put a bit of pressure on and get the angles we needed to get the set plays off the scrum. The boys showed a lot of character and we were pleased.

Black admitted there were mixed emotions at the end of the 22-20 defeat, which secured a losing bonus point and the side’s place in the PRO-12 semi-finals.

He said: “We were pleased to get the one point we needed to get into the play offs.

“There was a lot of pride and encouragement from how we dug in to get that point at the end and we had chances to win it. On another day we could have won it.”

“We could play Leinster away in the semis. Losing the final down there last year will give us added motivation and we showed being a man down we could still compete with them so it will hold no fears for us.”

Win, lose or draw at Thomond Park tomorrow Ulster can’t finish any higher than fourth in the table, coach Mark Anscombe will field a shadow side but Black believes there is plenty to play for.

“It’s going to be another tough game. Whatever front row they (Munster) put out they will have internationals.

“They have BJ Botha at tight head, it will be tough and we have put a lot of work in on the pitch and focusing on the battle up front.

“Yes it is a nothing game in the standings, but we need to put in a good performance leading into the semi final.

“Being a derby against Munster, the atmosphere down there will be massive and they are going to come at us.

“There are a lot of young boys going to be involved who are chomping at the bit to show what they are about.

“There is a good buzz in the squad and the boys are looking sharp in training.

“Munster could change positions so there will be motivation for them. For us it’s a massive game, it’s Munster away and the young lads are going to relish it and we’re going there for the win.”

Black could come up against former Ulster favourite BJ Botha at the coal face.

“I propped against him in the home game when I came off the bench, I’ve played against him a few times and he has a few tricks, he’s a tough to play against, I know I’ll have to be on the money and very focused because he takes every scrum very seriously.”

Andy Warwick is likely to be deployed at tight head prop again.

“Everyone is chuffed how Warwick did, he’s a great lad and he was thrown in at the deep end and he showed great character and dug in well and did a get job, he will learn from that experience playing against Leinster and he will improve the more he plays.”

Ulster have a number of new faces coming into the front next season and Black is hoping for a strong finish to the season and maybe force himself into the reckoning for one of the Ireland tours in the summer.

“We could have three games left and if I can get a lot of game time in these next three games and show what I’m about, if I finish off the year playing well and get a good pre season in and stay injury free I can start next year in a good play and put my case forward from the start.”

“I’ve played at age group for Ireland when I was younger, since I’ve been at Ulster it was a bit stop start, the more game time I’ve got I think I have been playing better and progressing, if I can just keep putting in good performances and if anything comes of it I’d be grateful and I’d love to be involved in the international set up but I’m not looking at that at the moment I just need to finish off well for Ulster and hopefully win something.”