Wounded beast a big worry for Anscombe
“We also know they’ve got quality players in their team and they are going to be better for that. They are going to be more demanding of each other. They are a pretty confrontational team, and a pretty finger-pointing group, so I’m sure that their forward pack have had some thumbs pushed in their chest and challenging them during the week.
“They’re going to come to Ravenhill on Saturday night a wounded beast, and they’re going to be dangerous and by all means if we’re not at the top of our game, you could see a 25-6 result reversed, and we certainly don’t want to be doing that.”
Indeed, Ulster have moved into the lead in this group, but only another win will give them some daylight. “If we don’t get the result that we seek then both Northampton and Castres come back into the competition and we then go into Christmas with anyone of three able to qualify,” noted Anscombe.
“We don’t want to be in that situation. We want to go into Christmas knowing we have a good margin in the pool, in a good position to qualify.”
It must also be a worry that their hugely influential captain, Johann Muller, will not be there to run the lineouts and restarts, which will place a big emphasis on Dan Tuohy to assume this leadership void as well as, most probably, fast-forwarding 20-year-old Iain Henderson’s first Ulster start in the secondrow.
In all of this, however, Anscombe takes great heart in the experience that still runs through the side in the likes of Rory Best, John Afoa, Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Wallace and Tommy Bowe. Players with a half century of caps don’t achieve this “by playing well occasionally, they do it consistently, and that’s why they’ve played that many internationals”, ventured Anscombe.
“We’ve got three from Ireland with over 50 Tests, we’ve got one from South Africa with over 50 Tests, so that’s a lot of experience,” he added.
“And what experience teaches someone is how they prepare, how they look after themselves during the week and what they set themselves out to do each week. If you get players like that, that then affects the others and that brings them through, and that’s why we challenge everyone to be able to lift it to a level to improve week after week.”