RUGBY: Ulster's Rob Herring wants top tier European Cup rugby
Ulster's Rob Herring went straight to the gym having watched European Champions Cup rugby at the weekend.
The dumbbells will have shuddered as he took his frustrations out after Ulster had failed for the second season in a row to make the knockout stages.
However, the Irish Province are now in danger of failing to make Europe’s premier tournament for the first time in its history next season.
Bar some shock results over the next month in the Guinness PRO14, Ulster’s best chance of making the Champions Cup will be via a play-off.
Ulster currently sit in fourth place in PRO14’s Conference B, 13 points behind Edinburgh who they play on Friday night.
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The top three in each Conference are guaranteed a place in Europe next season, with a play-off needed to decide the seventh qualifier.
A loss against Edinburgh tomorrow night would secure their place not only in Europe, but also the PRO14 Final series next month.
That leaves Ulster going head-to-head with Benetton for that all-important fourth place finish.
Herring, who is likely to have to yield to returning Ireland and Ulster captain, Rory Best, tomorrow night for the game at Murrayfield, admitted their backs are against the wall.
And the prospect of not making next season’s Champions Cup is a hugely motivating factor for the squad.
“It was difficult watching the quarter-finals at the weekend,” said Herring.
“I went straight to the gym after the Munster game.
“It is massively frustrating I think in terms of the last couple of seasons that we have not reached that stage.
“We’re all ambitious players and want to deliver for our personal ambitions and it’s what the club and fans deserve.
“We want to be there to it’s massively difficult to watch those games to know your missing out but I think to remain in the Champions Cup for next year is a massive priority for us.
“It’s not something you want to let go and it starts with this weekend.”
Herring went on: “It’s a massive game for us not just in terms of the Champions cup but in terms of knockout in the PRO14.”
In terms of the shop window the Champions Cup can be, Irish international Herring said he did not think about it in that (National) way.
“I think of it as a squad and the people we represent, the province, that’s the most important thing.”
Ulster last won an away game in the PRO14 in November - although they did have one other away win in Europe in December, and that poor form has been one factor in their league position this season
“We don’t prep differently if it’s away or at home,” said Herring. “ There is a difference and it’s often a long build-up to the day and it’s a late kick-off this weekend and I think we might just change something around Friday morning just to break the day up a little bit more.
“The frustrating thing is that over the last couple of weeks we’ve been training really well.
“These have been some of the best prep weeks we’ve had and just not executing the game-plan properly in the actual 80 minutes.
“We’ve another 80 minutes this week to try and get it right. We’re not playing as confidently as we’d like but there’s no easy fix for that.
“We’ve heard Jono (Gibbes) talking about building for the next moment and building positives and with a bit of luck as well we can play and win those big moments in the game and those smaller ones too and start playing with confidence again,” added Herring.