RUGBY: Ulster’s Roger Wilson has no regrets

Ulster's Roger Wilson
Ulster's Roger Wilson

Roger Wilson has clocked up over 350 games at the top level and it will come to an end against Leinster at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Wilson starts at No8 as he brings the curtain down on an illustrious career which saw over 200 games for Ulster in two spells and over a century of appearances for English Premiership side Northampton Saints.

Wilson helped the Saints to the European Challenge Cup in 2009, lifted the LV Cup in 2010 and picked up a Heineken Cup runners up medal in the never to be forgotten 2011 final against Leinster.

The No8 looks back fondly to his time at Franklin Gardens.

“I felt yeah, I probably did improve as a player over there (Northampton), I suppose it’s just that you go somewhere new and it’s a fresh challenge.

“I had five or six years at Ulster and they weren’t doing too well at the time and saw it as a challenge. I had a real good rapport with the coaches, I thought they were really good coaches,” said Wilson.

“I’d be someone who is of the opinion if you have a good relationship with the coach then you say ‘Oh I like to play for him’ and he would get the best out of me.

“Especially the likes of Dorian West, I learned a lot of the technical aspects of forward play. It was fairly basic stuff, but it made a huge amount of difference.

“I was obviously playing in a good Northampton team at the time, a good pack and we used to go out and dominate a lot of the opposition packs.

“I probably did find at the time that I was playing my best rugby.

“Half of the reason, or part of the reason for going over there was to potentially improve my chances of getting involved with Ireland.

“Unfortunately it didn’t work out like that for whatever reason, I don’t know. I certainly felt when I came back, I was a better player from when I went away.”

Wilson is still plagued by the 2011 final when the Saints led 22-6 at half time.

“Without a doubt it’s probably one of the lows, coming in at half-time we were at least 15 points up and part of you is thinking we have this won.

“It is the pinnacle of the club game, and I think we got a wee bit ahead of ourselves, and we came out and were completely obliterated. There was real shock after that game, I’ve never felt anything like it, a serious disappointment, when I look back it would haunt me still.”

There are also a lot of great memories in a career that spanned 14 years.

“To get my first Ulster cap was a massive high, it’s a long time ago now, but I remember just being a dream.

“It’s a cliché, but you ask most of the players here, they would come here and watch the Ulster team of old on the terrace.

“It’s always a dream of ours to play and when it’s a bit of a shock and you’re on cloud nine days afterwards and you cannot get enough, you want to push on, play more. That first year was probably my most enjoyable of my whole career . So that and getting my Ireland cap, and winning the silverware with Ulster back in 2005-6.

“The Celtic Cup, a few bits at Northampton as well, but that is the pick of them,” he added.