Friday, August 21, 2015

Ulster season preview by Kristian Ross

Kristian Ross column

It's hard to imagine just what lies ahead for what is easily the biggest season in the history of rugby union. Far from me to blow it out of proportion, but with a Rugby World Cup in England and a Ireland side that look incredibly strong, maybe now is the time to get carried away with Wembley Stadium looming in the distance for the men in green. That aside, provincial rugby will still be at the forefront of my mind, with this season being Ulster Rugby's chance to finally deliver.

Cast your memory back to the last few seasons and think of the narrow misses in which Ulster were just so close, but gallant losers in both the Heineken Cup and PRO12 finals. It’s a painful memory, one that sticks out and whilst many said that Ulster would build and go onto better things, most will agree that the club have taken a step back. No doubt that last season was a transitional period for the Ulstermen, after being dumped out of Europe, the PRO12 title was the only trinket to aim for, with that dream crushed back in May at the hands of a Glasgow Warriors side that although did go onto become champions, probably should have been dead and buried at Scotstoun by the end of the first half in the semi final.

With many big faces from various teams off on international duty, Ulster will once again have to cope without their star names, however it hasn’t been a problem in the past, with both youngsters and veterans alike filling the void and grinding out results. Ulster will now have to look to the young guns as well as their new signings, such as Sam Windsor from Worcester Warriors and Peter Browne from London Irish. Willie Faloon returns from Connacht, but many have left Ravenhill for pastures new. Michael Allen moves to Edinburgh Rugby, Mike McComish and Neil McComb have been released and Michael Heaney swaps the PRO12 for the Championship with his switch to Doncaster Knights.

Ulster haven’t added to their squad in the way that many thought they may have, however the signing of Charles Piutau excites any fan after his All Black performances but of course that wont take place until 2016. With a new kit that many say is ruined by the Kingspan sponsor emblazoned across the chest, I’ve taken the view that people should stop moaning and that the companies money will be funding a lot more of our overseas recruitment for many years to come. Les Kiss’s arrival following the RWC gives real sign of ambition, a man who for me talks sense and who’s majestic beard is one of epic proportions.

As always, I can sit here and say that Ulster’s time may well be round the proverbial corner, but what is the point of all this speculation? Many times have we built up the club that they will go on and perform, but they’ve always fell short at the final hurdle. Having said that, I’ll happily stand for another year.. but this year... they must deliver.

Kristian. 20. Geordie. Fond of Wasps, Falcons and Ulster. @Kristian7Ross

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