Centre Luke Marshall was one of Ulster’s stand out performers in the pre season games and he carried that form into the RaboDirect Pro12 with another solid outing in last week’s win against Glasgow.
“It was great even though the performance wasn’t totally up to scratch. It was good to get the win and I suppose it was reasonably comfortable apart from the last 10 minutes and it is something to build on for the Ospreys,” he said.
“It’s going to be tough but hopefully we can get the performance and the result over there.”
In previous years fringe players have played in warm-up games but haven’t featured when the real action has started but coach Mark Anscombe kept faith with the players that won two and drew one game in pre-season.
“I think it was basically the same team that played in the Newcastle game. We went into the first competitive game and looked pretty comfortable so it was great and Mark has kept his word,” Marshall added.
Ulster missed three kicks at goal which would have made the margin of victory more comfortable but Marshall, who regularly kicks for Ballymena in the All Ireland League, admits he is in no rush to take over kicking duties.
“I’ll see how Niall goes this week and I won’t be putting my hand up just yet. I’ll maybe wait a couple of weeks,” he said.
“I’m still practicing goal kicking and I kicked a lot last year for Ballymena. I’ll keep kicking in training and if I get an opportunity I can put my hand up and it is another string to my bow.”
Darren Cave returned to action last week and Andrew Trimble is available for the trip to the Ospreys but as the big names come back it makes Marshall more determined to hold onto the shirt.
“I think it inspires the young guys more because we have got nothing to lose. They are the big names coming back and would be expected to go straight back in but if we’re playing well and putting our hands up Mark is not afraid to select on form.”
Marshall is hoping it will be third time lucky as he returns to the Liberty Stadium.
“I’ve played there twice before, I’ve played there the last two seasons and it’s a nice pitch. It’s a big stadium so it doesn’t fill up very well so it’s quite an odd atmosphere but it’s a good place to play,” he said.
“It’s not been a good ground for us. I think we have only had one win over there in the last four years and I can actually remember watching it on television, but I think we are a different team with a different mentality this year. There is a lot more confidence and I don’t think there is any reason why we can’t go over there expecting a win.”
He may not be fit enough to face his former club but Tommy Bowe has been passing on his knowledge of the Ospreys to his new team-mates.
“We had a backs meeting on Tuesday and Tommy basically took it and had some inside information which I’m sure the Ospreys won’t be too happy about but we’re definitely going to use it,” Marshall revealed.
The Ospreys suffered a shock defeat at Treviso last week but Marshall doesn’t know if that makes it a good time to play them or whether Ulster will face a backlash.
“Having lost last week we could go into the game thinking they are vulnerable and if Treviso can beat them why can’t we,” he said.
“The other side is they are a good team and that lost last week will have hurt them so I think we have got to expect a tough test.”
Marshall looks set to keep his starting role at inside centre but Cave is putting pressure on Chris Farrell for the number 13 shirt but the Ballymena man doesn’t care which one partners him.
“Darren is obviously a lot more experienced and in defence he would probably bit a bit more organised and he also has very good vision in attack, there is stuff Chris is very good at as well like his offloading capabilities and he is a good passer.”
“They are both different types of player but both are quite easy to play with as well and there are two good players but as long as I am getting a start I’ll be happy.”