Outhalf Niall O’Connor has scored 105 points for Ulster in five PRO12 outings this season.
His kicking in Italy preserved Ulster’s 100% record in the league and he is hoping for similar performance against Munster at Thomond Park as he is handed the number 10 shirt for the trip to Limerick.
“My last game was over in Italy against Treviso, I’ve had a few games against the Ravens, with a few guys being rested and the Ireland camp it means I get an opportunity,” said O’Connor
“I’m looking forward to the game, it will be a tough game and it is a hard place to go to and get a win but it is something I’m looking forward and enjoying.”
“I think it is something I have got to except, Paddy had been going so well up until that and he was rewarded by joining the Ireland team and he played well against Fiji so it was only natural that he was going to come back in.”
“We have both been pushing each other hard and competition is great for the side and the only way to improve is to keep pushing yourself against your opposite number.”
“Paddy gets a week off this week and I get a run out and Thomond.”
After Munster Ulster face the second placed Scarlets before the final two Heineken Cup games but O’Connor is totally focused on the job at Thomond Park.
“I’m not looking too far ahead beyond this week, I’ll try and put in a performance and hopefully we can get a good win but we’re missing a few guys.”
“It’s a great opportunity for a few guys and some of the younger guys to put their hands up and that is all Mark asks for is that guys keep pushing themselves and make it difficult for him to pick a XV every week.”
“I think it shows how far Ulster has come, the strength in depth in the squad is a strong as it has been over the last few years, when guys are away on Ireland duty or being rested there is still quality players to come in, step up and do a good job for us.”
“We have a good side out at Thomond and hopefully it will be a good game.
O’Connor feels Ulster got a monkey of their back by beating Leinster.
“Leinster was massive, we had talked about it all week how we had a poor record against them and that was something that the guys wanted to put right, a lot of guys had never beaten Leinster and coming of the back of the Northampton defeat, it was key to get the win and get back on track again, it was a great win and puts us back in a good place.”
Ulster showed in the Heineken Cup quarter final going to Thomond Park won’t hold any fears.
“It is an intimidating and tough place to go but it is also very enjoyable and there is a great atmosphere, the Munster fans are very loud and passionate.
“It’s a good place to go and play rugby, rather than worry about the physiological fear of Thomond Park it’s a matter of trying to soak up the atmosphere and put in a good performance.
With the Scarlets losing to the Ospreys on Boxing Day Ulster go to Limerick with a nine point lead at the top of the table and a game in hand.
“We’re in a good position in the league but we’re not thinking too much about that, it’s about putting in a good performance and trying to get the performance down there and get a bit more day light at the top of the table.”