Heineken Cup rugby is all about testing yourself against the best and Ulster will certainly experience that in their opening two games.
After defeating English champions Leicester at Ravenhill Ulster travel to France on Saturday for a show down with Montpellier who are currently in a three way tie for the lead in the Top 14.
Ireland flanker Chris henry is expecting another war of attrition in the forwards against one of the biggest packs in Europe.
“Leicester are a big pack and Montpellier are even bigger pack. We know what we’re going to face though as we’re have to match them in their physicality and get our scrum our lineout and our maul going,” said Henry.
“I think last week we had to grind them down and certainly in the second half our scrum made a difference and I think as a forward pack we matched them and it swung the game.”
It took Ulster a while to tame the Tigers scrum before winning a couple of crucial penalties at the set piece in the second half.
“I think it was the binding issues and we weren’t getting our body shape right and I think all credit to Tom and Declan for they worked really, really hard.”
“We always take a lot of confidence in our fitness as a team and eventually in that second half our fitness really showed through round the park and in the scrums, so it was a big issue and we kept doing the simple things and kept on working and we knew that it would eventually come good.”
Ulster went in three points up against Leicester and Henry admits it was a simple half time team talk.
“I think at half-time we sort of said we’ve had try scoring opportunities that we’ve missed and one at the start of the game which if we’d got it we would have cracked ahead.”
“At half-time there wasn’t a great deal said other than keep doing what you’re doing and eventually it will come. We felt that if we kept the tempo high and moved them around that it would come good.”
“At the end of the game when they kicked it dead it showed that they were happy the game hadn’t got away from them,” added Henry
“At the end of the game this is common theme over the last few weeks that we’ve created a lot of try scoring opportunities but we’ve not take them because guys are just too flat or the pass isn’t going to hand.”
“We as players are putting a lot of pressure on ourselves at training to rectify that.”
“In games you might get one or two opportunities but because we’re playing well at the minute we’re getting more than that and we’re still winning these games.”
Henry is hoping the late bonus point Leicester got doesn’t come back to hurt Ulster at the end of the pool stage.
“For myself, personally, I was raging and gutted. Look at the past years when one point really killed us and to give Leicester that chance of one point really was frustrating.”
“The most important thing for us was to get the four points. It’s put a wee bit of a negative on it but without a doubt we’re in a good place, the confidence is high and the guys are playing some great rugby.”
“It’s the same as always this week and we’ve won in France before and we’re confident and the boys are certainly going there to get the win.”
Henry is hoping Ulster can silence the passionate crowd in Montpellier by making a good start.
“The massive thing in France are the fans. They’re a bit like the Ravenhill fans as they are amazing and if they (French fans) get behind their team early doors it gives them a real buzz.”
“We have to quieten the crowd, start the game well and stay in the game as long as possible and those chances will come.”
“They are a bit of an unknown and they change their team quite a lot and they’ve a great squad of players but if we focus on ourselves that’s all that matters.”
“This week is about us, it’s about getting our bodies right and making sure we turn up again like we did last week and bring that energy and intensity to the breakdown and get our set-piece right if we do that we’ll be going in the right direction.”
“Our discipline in the first half against the Tigers was something we addressed at half-time you’ve got to use your head and not give other teams easy opportunities.”
“In these games you’re so pumped up before them and everyone’s buzzing and banging heads off the wall but if you come out there with too much that’s when you can give away those silly penalties so we’ve got to be focused.”
“We’re an experienced team now and even the young guys are playing extremely well so we’re not in a bad place at all.”