It has always been the plan when the Ulster management sat down to have the key players back in the fold just after Christmas for what is always a big month in the crux of the season.
On Wednesday, as expected, the frontliners who had been rested for the trip to Limerick in the PRO12 returned ready to do action in the league against Scarlets on Friday night - and of course, gear up for the European assault in the following two weeks as the pools reach the business end period.
Obviously there could be no planning for the fact that skipper, Johann Muller and Irish internationals, Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe would be long term injuries through what assistant coach, Neil Doak, referred to as the defining period of the season.
“January was always going to be a huge month, but it is even bigger in many respects as it the defining period of our season in many ways.
“We want to get back to winning ways after the loss in Munster when we meet the Scarlets in the PRO12 on Friday night.
“We have a nine point cushion at the minute - something we probably would only have dreamt of having at the start of the season.
“And if we put on the performance we need to get the win this Friday night then we will still have that cushion.
“That then brings us perfectly into the hugely critical matches in Europe with the last two games in our Pool.
“We know again that if we put in the performances we will get the results we require to make sure we get out of the group.”
Doak admitted that if anyone had predicted Ulster were would sitting in control in two different competitions - top of the PRO12 and top of their Heineken Cup pool - at the half way point of the season, they would have grasped at it.
“But the important thing for us now is that we make sure we continue in the vein we have.
“There has been an awful lot of hard work has gone in to get to where we are. It is a tremendous reflection on those involved.
“But we cannot get complacent and we have to make sure we keep our focus for the game this week against Scarlets and do not think too far ahead at this point.”
At the start of every season every teams wants to win their league and win in Europe.
Doak said while the aim is to make sure you are in the top four come the end of the league side of the PRO12, and preferably with a first or second place finish, their goal was to finish top of the league and then win the championship.
“To do that we have to produce that consistent run which we had in the first half of the season.”
Ruan Pienaar is one of several internationals returning to the panel and certain to start this week against the Welsh visitors.
The South African will reach a milestone with the Irish Province when he makes his 50th appearance for the side.
“I can’t believe it, it’s been really enjoyable and to get to 50 that quickly is really special and to do it at Ravenhill will be even better,” said Pienaar.
ULSTER PROVISIONAL SQUAD -
Forwards: Rob Herring, Rory Best, Niall Annett, Callum Black, Tom Court, John Afoa, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Neil McComb, Dan Tuohy, IainHenderson, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Nick Williams, Roger Wilson.
Backs: Paul Marshall, Michael Heaney, Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall, Paddy Wallace, Darren Cave, Craig Gilroy, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Adam D’Arcy.