Preparation is vital for Ulster success: Rory Best

Disappointment for Ulster's  Rory Best last year against Saracens
Disappointment for Ulster's Rory Best last year against Saracens

Hooker Rory Best was part of the Ulster team that won Celtic League in 2006 under Mark McCall.

What looked like being a bright new horizon for Ulster didn’t materialise, and that league title eight years was Ulster’s last piece of silverware.

“It’s a long time ago but it doesn’t seem that long, there is only me, Tommy (Bowe), Trimby (Andrew Trimble), Roger (Wilson) and Stevie (Ferris) that were involved, there were five of us which isn’t a bad representation when you consider how long ago it was,” said Best.

“A lot of years have passed and we haven’t really produced. We talked in 2006 about going on and winning more and we just didn’t and we got progressively worse.

“We hit a really low ebb in 2007/8, but I think we are back now and when you look at our squad we are well equipped to win things.

“But as we found out last year in the quarter finals having a good squad doesn’t equate to winning.

“You need to know your detail and when you turn up on the day mentally you need to be prepared to go to places that maybe the opposition won’t go to.

“Certainly, 12 months ago because we played so well against Leinster the week before we just presumed we’d turn up and the same would happen and no one would be able to live with us and we fell short along.”

Saracens put Ulster out of the Heineken Cup at the same stage last year and Best felt it was one of the worst performances of last season.

“It’s hard to know whether it will be an advantage or not, “ he added.

“Their memories of us will not be of what a true Ulster team should be and a couple of weeks after last year’s quarter final I was talking to Ronan O’Gara and he said watching it looked a very un-Ulster like performance.

“Ultimately, that’s what it was, we got bullied and beaten up round the place and we were probably happy enough to take it.

“The big lesson for me is you can’t take anything for granted. We just thought winning had become a habit for us and when we have our full team out that usually equalled a win.

“But we just were not ready last year and Saracens were. But it’s a new year and a new pitch so we’re hoping for a new result.”

It’s Ulster’s first home quarter-final in 15 years and it promises to be a highly charged occasion.

Best said: “It’s been massive. It was 1999 since we last had a quarter final at home, it’s going to be a massive occasion.

“We have some very big players and we’re used to playing in front of big crowds on big occasions and big atmospheres. We just need to make sure we don’t play the occasion - we just play the match.

“Ultimately it comes down to 15 v 15 on the pitch. If we can start well and get into the game the crowd will be a massive factor.

“Saracens will be coming looking to start well to silence the crowd, it’s a bit of a double edged sword but for us we need to make sure we’re ready to go on Saturday, we can’t rely on it being at home, the crowd will play their part if we hit them with a big performance.”

Outhalf Owen Farrell is Saracens’ match winner and Best got a close up view of the England international on the Lions tour in Australia.

“When you’re working up close with these guys you see how good a player they are. He’s a really talented player but he also has a real competitiveness and a will to win, sometimes he comes across as a bit fiery but he has to win all the time and for me that is a good thing.

“The boys respect and follow him, he is a good guy, he works hard and we’ll know he’ll be bang on the money and we can’t rely on him having an off day.”