Ulster seek Twickenham redemption
By Damian Dolan
Given the near domination the Irish provinces have enjoyed in the Heineken Cup in recent years it seemed inconceivable in October that there would be no Irish presence in the final at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on May 18.
But with champions Leinster having already been unceremoniously dethroned those hopes now rest with Ulster and Munster, and they are dubious hopes at best, after a Six Nations campaign which left a string on casualties in its wake and the Ireland players’ morale on the floor.
Ulster only missed out on a Ravenhill quarter-final by a whisker and now face a truly titanic clash with Saracens at Twickenham on Saturday evening.
Mark McCall’s Saracens have added a more expansive element to their game since their dire back-to-back arm wrestles with Munster in December. McCall may have captained Ulster to Heineken Cup success in 1999, but Saturday will be no time for sentiment, with Saracens still searching for their first European Cup title.
The switch to Twickenham is interesting. While it may swell the London club’s already sizeable coffers, it arguably offers Ulster with a better chance to progress. For Ulster, it will be the chance to banish the memory of their comprehensive defeat to Leinster in last year’s final, particularly for fly half Paddy Jackson, who was called ashore too late by Brian McLaughlin.
For more see the April 6 print edition of The Irish World