Ulster continue to roar as the beast in Court finally comes to surface
Heineken Cup:It’s taken a while, but the beast in Tom Court has finally come to the surface. Having manifested itself in the November League games against Zebre and Treviso, and as a replacement against the Scarlets, it was abundantly evident in the ties against Northampton, particularly the first in Franklin’s Gardens, where a fired-up Court was more than a match for Brian Mujati, even seeing him off.
“It’s been a big thing from coaches, especially since I started, to be more aggressive,” Court admitted candidly, which goes back to Matt Williams’ galvanising days at Ulster when plucking Court from relative obscurity.
“Gym scores and speed scores and power and all that, fine, but if you’re not putting it into action there’s no point really, and I think that’s been the big thing all along.
“I guess sometimes it takes a few years to realise how to harness the aggression. It wouldn’t be one of those things that is sort of overwhelming my everyday life but maybe I’m getting better at harnessing it on the pitch.”
Noting that he’s played more at tighthead for Ireland than he has for Ulster, “a ridiculous situation” even if he adds “you’re never going to say no to playing for your country”, Court then refers to the scrummaging nightmare of Twickenham when he was pressed into action as a replacement tight-head. “I’m big enough to be able to wear what happened in Twickenham that day and move on.”
He is altogether more relaxed about being a specialist loose-head and being called into squads rather than “stressing and worrying about playing tighthead”, even if he acknowledges the other provinces all have three good young loose-heads.
An increased work-rate, notably in defence, was also apparent in Ulster’s progress to last season’s final, but the last couple of months have been different. Having also missed out on the summer tour through injury, the catalyst is quite clear.
“Being left out of the November series with Ireland was a very big disappointment for me, and a bit of a kick in the guts on the back of the last outing with Ireland,” he admits, all the more so as his omission from the South African game came on his 32nd birthday.
“I don’t have many miles on the clock,” said the ex-shot putter, who has started less than 100 games for Ulster and Ireland. “There’s still quite a good few years left in me and you don’t want to finish up and then realise you never really lived up to your potential. I still have a lot to achieve and a lot that I want to do in rugby.
“I am not happy with sitting on 29 caps for a start and with the team we’ve got here at Ulster at the moment it would be a very big disappointment if we didn’t finish up with some silverware over the next couple of years. On a personal level I think I can play better rugby than I’ve played.”
He is wary of a “fairly fearless” Glasgow tonight, who “pushed Castres right to the limit at home, gave Northampton a torrid time for the first 50 minutes and had a great win last week against a strong Treviso team. They’ve got a lot of dangerous runners in the pack and have an under-rated pack. They gave us a very tough time in the first game over there and we came out feeling on the worse side of it in the set-piece. But if we want to come away with a win we’re going to have to do a lot better than the last time.”