Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has called on his internationals to stand up and be counted in this weekend’s Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Munster, admitting he will do everything in his power to make sure Stephen Ferris is fit to play.
These two sides have never met in the Heineken Cup knock-out stages while their previous meeting this season in the RaboDirect PRO12 ended in a 33-17 victory for Ulster at Ravenhill.
Munster will host Ulster still reeling from their 18-9 defeat to Leinster last weekend however, and are the favourites to overturn McLaughlin’s side, who were leading at half-time in last year’s quarter-final, only to press the self-destruct button against eventual finalists Northampton.
Ferris injured his ankle last time out against Aironi on Friday but McLaughlin is desperate to have the Ireland flanker back at his disposal, claiming he needs his senior players to make their voices heard.
“The one thing we've learned in the last couple of years, and from last year especially, is that our key players have been excellent on occasions like these," McLaughlin told the Irish Independent.
“They’re great in the changing-room, their conversations, the work they do all week in training, in terms of cajoling the younger guys and putting pressure on them to push their performance levels to the top, but without too much pressure.
“Certainly this week, the first 20 minutes are going to be all-out war.
“The players know what they're going into. They'll need to be up for it the minute they go through the door. It's going to be an exciting 20 minutes.
“We want to give Stephen as much time as possible to recover.
“He missed out last year with a knee injury that nearly robbed him of a World Cup as well. We'll do everything in our power to make sure he'll be fit.”