With Pro14 play-off hopes and European Champions Cup qualification on the line hooker Rob Herring believes every one of Ulster’s remaining games is a must win starting at the Cardiff Blues on Saturday.
Ulster are facing the prospect of no knockout rugby for a second consecutive season unless they can bridge a nine point gap with Edinburgh in Conference B, Jono Gibbes’ side do have a game in hand over the Scottish side.
“You could say that it’s five cup finals,” admits Herring. “We’re not sitting where we need to be.
“Edinburgh beating Munster last week puts them up there again.
“I keep saying it, we can’t be worried about what results are going what way, we’ve five games and it’s how we prep for them and show up for them that matters, that’s all we can control.
“We have the responsibility to the fans and ourselves. What has happened up to now has happened.
“We still believe we can get to the knock-out stages, we still believe we deserve to be there, we believe in what we are doing, we are working hard.
“Ultimately if we don’t get to the knockout stages then what are we doing here? So that is obviously our focus now before the end of the season.”
Benetton are chasing Ulster for the Champions Cup play-off place.
The Italians are six points adrift having played a game more but on paper have an easier run in.
“Benetton are going well, to be fair,” admitted Herring.
“They’ve been going well all season. They’ve been involved in close games and are playing a good brand of rugby.
“But we can’t be looking what’s behind us. It’s game by game.”
A run of four wins has lifted Cardiff into a Champions Cup position in Conference A and with the likes of three times British Lions tourist Gethin Jenkins in the front row Herring is expecting a tough day at the coal face.
“They have a couple of hookers who are a bit younger too, they’ve an experienced front-row, a good bit of size to them, the whole pack is pretty big,” he said.
Herring is relishing clashing with former team mate Nick Williams.
“I haven’t played against him since he left. He’ll always be out there telling you a joke in a ruck, or tickling you or something.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him, just hoping he doesn’t have a good game.”
Herring believes the 4G pitch at the Arms Park with help Ulster’s scrum.
“To be fair we’ve done a bit of scrummaging on the 4G pitch.
“It’s obviously a bit different to the normal turf, I actually prefer it, as if you are technically a good side, it will suit you.
“I think we can be pretty good. I’m looking forward to it, you have to get things right, there’s no give, so if you’re on the front foot, that’s how it stays.”
Ulster have lost a Rugby Director and a head coach since January but Herring thinks what’s happening off the pitch shouldn’t be affecting results on it.
“It’s not ideal, Les (Kiss) is a good man and it was sad to see him leave, and Jono now too.
“Looking towards next season, there’s obviously a lot of uncertainty,
“We’ve still got Jono now and we’re very much result driven until the end of the season, we have to brush all the other things and focus on what we can control,” added Herring.
Meanwhile, Jacob Stockdale is expected to start against Cardiff on Saturday afternoon.