We must grasp opportunity says Ulster captain Rory Best

Nick Timoney during the Captain's Run ahead of Ulster's vital Round 5 Heineken Champions Cup clash against Racing 92 at the Kingspan Stadium
Nick Timoney during the Captain's Run ahead of Ulster's vital Round 5 Heineken Champions Cup clash against Racing 92 at the Kingspan Stadium

Captain Rory Best believes it is time for Ulster to start being regulars again in the knockout stages of Europe.

It has been 2014 since Ulster last reached the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup.

Best returns to lead Ulster out to a near full-house at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 3:15pm) against Pool Four leaders Racing 92.

There are 13 changes from the side which lost to Leinster in the Guinness PRO14 last weekend with internationals Jacob Stockdale, Will Addison and Jordi Murphy included, while winger Robert Baloucoune will make his European debut.

Top 14 side Racing, who are coming to Belfast, fully loaded, currently head Pool four, five points ahead of Ulster.

Their last defeat in Europe was to Leinster in last year’s final and they can secure their last eight spot with a win in Belfast today.

For Ulster, another famous win over a French side in Belfast - La Rochelle and Clermont the most recent challengers who were felled - would boost their chances further of qualifying.

But given their current position and match points, whatever happens in Belfast today, they are still likely to need something from their last game next weekend against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.

Having been in a similar position last season, but slipping up in their last game at Wasps, Best believes the current group are in a much better place to take the opportunity this time around.

With the position we’re in we have a real possibility to go through, and I think it’ll be a sign of how far we’ve come,” said Best.

“I think the difference is we’ve looked a bit stronger getting into this position this year. We’ve been fairly comprehensive in December, not only in the European games, but up to Connacht.

“You look at the Munster and Cardiff games, there were bits of those games where we’ve looked pretty good.

“Yes we had those loses during the festive derbies

“It’s a massive game as we’re playing one of the best teams in Europe and there’s also the fear of what they can potentially do to you if they get on a roll.

“Sometimes that fear is what you need to get off the ground a bit quicker and bring a little bit more out of yourself.

“This fixture is a massive opportunity for us to put a big step forward,” added Best.