Scrum half Michael Heaney believes his time spent at the Doncaster Knights in the English National Championship helped him develop as a player.
Heaney joined the Yorkshire club on a short term contract in 2012, his form prompted Ulster to over him a six month contract at the start of the 2012/13 season and his form earned him a two year extension.
“It was very good for me and it give me a fresh start, I had a chance to go away and play a bit of rugby at a higher standard that I would have been playing here at club level,” said Heaney.
“I progressed well enough over that short period of time for Ulster to want me back so I in hindsight I benefited from and they are a lot of guys that have benefited from going away and coming back even over long periods like Ian Humphreys and Roger Wilson, it helped me develop as a player and coming back to Ulster with a new coach in Mark helped.”
With Ruan Pienaar ruled out of Friday night’s trip to Murrayfield Heaney has won the battle with Paul Marshall for the scrum half shirt. “Leinster pre season was the last time I started for Ulster, competitively it was Zebre away last year so it has been a while.”
“With Ru out for a while hopefully I’ll get an opportunity and a good run out this weekend and get a bit of game time.”
“I’m just being given an opportunity neither Paul or myself have played that much this year, it’s probably not a case of picking on form it’s more a case of who is going to be the successor to Ru (no idea what he’s on about) whenever he gets back and we’re into the Heineken games.”
Ulster lost in the Scottish capital last season.
“I came off the bench, it’s a tough place to go, we want to keep winning in the Rabo because we want to be in the playoffs at the end of the year but the lead into the Heineken is also important that we build momentum and keep going who were going and keep getting better every week.”
“On paper there are plenty of games you should be winning but we all know we don’t play the game on paper once you get out on the pitch it 15 against 15 and anything can happen so have to be on our game no matter who we play, we’ve got to be clinical, we’ve got to take our chances when we get them and really put teams away and not take anything for granted.”
Ulster are hitting form at the right time and also have a nearly fully fit squad fighting for places.
“We set ourselves a goal over the four games of getting four wins and we managed to do that, we are progressing nicely and hopefully we can keep building on our form and take it into the end of the season.”
“We are under no illusion we haven’t won anything yet this year and it is all in front of us it’s all to play for at the business end of the season.
“It’s the first time in quite a while we’ve had this many fit players but it’s nice to give the coaches a headache at this time of the year hopefully everybody is playing on form and trying to push for a starting place for the big games coming up.”
Heaney was delighted to see Ireland and Lions flanker Stephen Ferris return from injury last Friday in the bonus point win over the Scarlets.
“It’s massive it’s been so long since he played it’s like having a new player, having him back and the energy he is bringing to training is brilliant and it just lifts everybody and that is what we need at this time of the year something fresh and something to keep the energy high in training and hopeful that will have an impact.”
Heaney will partner his former Methody school mate Paddy Jackson on Friday night.
“Jackie played very well at the weekend and he is a quality player, they didn’t use him in Paris and that was to our benefit and hopefully he can do the same this weekend as we look up to our performance.”
“With Ulster I played with him a decent bit last year coming off the bench a few times and the starts I had were with him and obviously we played together at school and I’m happy playing with him.”