Ulster have only won once against Leinster in Dublin since 1999 and prop Ricky Lutton has special memories of that game at the RDS as it was his run on debut for the province.
After three appearances from the bench Lutton started in the 22-18 win. but also started the semi final the following year at the RDS when Ulster lost by four points.
“It has good and bad memories for me,” said Lutton. “My first start down there was a good win and that was a few years ago and since then we haven’t had too much success there.
“It’s a great place to play, it’s nice and loud and it’s a really great challenge, being a local derby and an Ulsterman it certainly fires up the blood for me.”
Lutton knows no matter who Leinster pick at loose head prop it will be a tough nigh at the coal face.
“They have Irish internationals across the front row and have good depth in all three positions and were under no illusions come Friday night it will be a really challenge at scrum time and beyond.”
Leinster have only lost one of their last 12 league games at the RDS while Ulster have lost a final and two semi finals at the Dublin venue since 2011.
“They have been a really good consistent team over the last 10 years and that is something we are striving towards getting.
“That consistency and on the road mentality where we can take our Kingspan form on the road with us.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge down there and they have a lot of Irish internationals flooding back in from the world cup.”
After starting the 2014 semi-final Lutton endured an injury hit season last year.
“I only got two goes last year and it was a really frustrating season for me.
“I injured my toe in Glasgow that season and managed to play on into the semi but it wasn’t right.
“We came back into pre season and we decided it would take a bit of time to get it sorted and it took me to November/December time to get it right.
“By that stage Deccy (Fitzpatrick) was still here and going well, Wiehahn (Herbst) had come in and was doing a good job and Bronson (Ross) had emerged so there was no opportunities for me.”
“I just had to sick in and get a couple of games with the ‘A’ team and Belfast Harlequins and thankfully when the opportunities came along at the end of the season I was in reasonably shape to have a go at it.
“But then the semi final against Glasgow was another big disappointment for the team and me personally but you have to learn from those thing move on and look forward.”
Lutton came off the bench with 10 minutes to go in Friday night’s defeat against Saracens.
“The conditions were tough to be a sub because it was hard to get warm.
“We were running up and down the touch line trying to keep warm and it was a very fast and physical game to come into.
“There was a lot of kick chasing and fair play to Saracens they know their game plan inside out and executed it brilliantly.”
“We started the first 20 minutes well but we couldn’t keep up that level of performance for the full 80 which was pretty disappointing.”
“The video review was very honest and that is something we pride ourselves on as a group is being honest with each other and each individual was ready to admit what mistakes they made and what they need to do to rectify it and they beauty of this season with the way the games are stacked we don’t have to wait too long to get out onto the pitch to put it right.”
Ulster won their last league game away at the Dragons and Lutton is hoping they can make it back to back Pro12 wins on the road.
“It was good to get that monkey off our backs but it is not something that we have been hugely conscious, we take it one game at a time when we’re away, we prepare the same way and build up our detail and the game plan and aim to go out and deliver, the Munster and Edinburgh games which we lost away we had plays in the dying minutes of those games to win them but we just didn’t execute them and it is not a case of we’re getting blown away,” we were disappointed to lose but not dishearten and we were right in the mix to the end and it was good to come on the other side of one of those against the Dragons and we’ll look to build on that this weekend.”
Lutton feels Ulster are taking time to adapt to the new scrum rules.
“We look at our scrum performance after every game, generally on our own ball we have been pretty solid, the scrum process has evolved even from last season without the calling system changing, the gap has got a lot smaller, teams are hanging a lot more weight on the bind phase there is not really the balance there was in the past which I guess the referees like because the hit is lessen and there is lessen and there is last chance of collapse so in some regards it really doesn’t suit us we’d prefer to have a slight gap and have that contest across the line.”
“It is something that we work on, every week we do a lot of video work and a lot of work with Clarky out on the pitch, I think we have a quality core of front row forwards it’s something we’re always looking to improve on and it will come a lot better as the season progresses.”
Lutton has going back to is roots and is helping to coach the forwards at his old school Ballyclare High.
“Mike McKeever gave me a call to go down and help with the set piece stuff and I’m delighted to be able to go down and help out at my old school and hopefully they can get a bit of a run in the cup this year and it would be great to see them get to the semi finals and beyond again.”
“It’s something I really enjoy doing and it is giving something back to the kids down there, the school was great for me, I remember Tommy Young and Frank Gault really added a lot to my career and without their input I wouldn’t have got to where I am today so it is great to be able to go down and help out and there is a lot of talented players there and hopefully we can kick them on from school and get them playing senior rugby as well and a couple could be team mates in a few years.”
“My focus is to build on their technique and stability and to emphasis to them that just because they are dominant against a school pack that they have to get their technique right when they play the bigger schools and move on to the next level that it’s important to have that sound technically footing their size and strength will come and if they can have the technically base to build on top of that it makes the transition into adult rugby a lot eaiser.