Ulster want home quarter-final declares Rory Best

Ulster's Rory Best is determined to help get Ulster a home quarter final
Ulster's Rory Best is determined to help get Ulster a home quarter final

British Lions hooker Rory Best achieves an Ulster milestone on Saturday when he runs out at Welford Road for his 150th appearance for the club.

The Irish Province face their biggest game of their season to date when they take on fellow European heavyweights, Leicester Tigers, in the final Pool Five game of this season’s Heineken Cup.

Both former champions have already guaranteed themselves a place in the quarter-finals, but the stakes could not be higher for the victors – a lucrative and vital home draw in the last eight.

Ulster – the only team remaining unbeaten in Europe this season – lead the group by two points.

Forget about the maths associated with bonus points and draws, if Ulster win they will be assured top seeds in the last eight and a first game at the new Ravenhill in front of a record 18,000 crowd on the weekend of April 5.

Irish international Best can go on to achieve another milestone this season by joining the Europe Elite 50 club by making the half century appearances in the competition.

That would be at the Heineken Cup final on May 24 at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

It is not beyond the realms of reality as Ulster have already qualified – the only club currently in the running who will have reached the quarter-finals four seasons in a row.

At this week’s media conference the builders at Ravenhill were working away under lights to keep things on track for the target finish.

The project is nearing completion and Best joked that it would be a nice thing to keep the pressure on the builders to make sure they were ready by Ulster winning tomorrow.

Having one foot over the line is not enough for Ulster or Best.

“We want the home quarter-final,” said the talismanic player who is a huge favourite at Ravenhill.

“It does not matter that we have already qualified. At the start of this campaign we talked about not going places to get losing bonus points, we were going out to win every game.

“We did that away to Montpellier and the mindset is exactly the same this weekend. We want to win.

“Qualification is great but we know to do well in this competition having a home quarter-final puts the odds a bit more in your favour.”

Ulster were in a similar situation two seasons ago going into their last pool game against Clermont Auvergne, results the previous evening going in their favour and assuring qualification.

Ulster claimed a losing bonus point and finished as one of the best runners-up and eighth seeds, facing top seeded Munster in the quarter-finals away – they won and went on to lose to Leinster in the final at Twickenham.

Best said: “Traditionally one of the quarter-finals is won by the away team.

“But we want to be at home. We are the only team unbeaten in Europe. We have been in a good position like this before, but we let it slip.

“We have got out of the group for the past three years, but gone away in the quarters. This time we want it to be at home.”