HICKIE SCOOPS PLAYER AWARD: Denis Hickie received a boost ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup clash with Gloucester (Lansdowne Road, kick-off 5.30pm) when he was presented with the Bank of Scotland (Ireland) Player of the Month award for September.
The 30-year-old winger scooped the Leinster gong after scoring three tries during the Magners League last month. His outstanding performance in the win at Connacht in particular, captured the attention of the Leinster fan base to ensure that the first POTM award of the 2006/07 season would be the Dubliner's.
The Bank of Scotland (Ireland) Player of the Month initiative was instigated by Leinster during the 2003/04 season and it has seen players such as Gordon D'Arcy, Felipe Contepomi, Keith Gleeson and Reggie Corrigan rewarded with the ultimate honour - the public support of the fans.
To mark the award, Hickie received a specially commissioned trophy designed by award-winning Dublin silversmith Seamus Gill.
DUFFY WANTS DISCIPLINE FROM 'QUINS: Ireland international Gavin Duffy returns to his roots tomorrow night when his current club NEC Harlequins visits his former employers Connacht in the European Challenge Cup.
The Sportsground is sure to be heaving as the sides clash in a repeat of the 2004 semi-final, which 'Quins edged on aggregate by only four points.
It is Connacht's seventh straight home game of the season and with 'Quins winless after their first five outings in the Guinness Premiership, Mayo man Duffy is keen for his side to avoid a hampering first round defeat, and that means discipline, discipline, discipline from Dean Richards' charges.
Duffy, who will partner Jordan Turner-Hall at centre tomorrow, said: "Both sides will have their homework done on perceived strengths and weaknesses but one thing is for certain from our point of view and that is that we cannot afford to give Mark McHugh too many opportunities to have a shot at goal. Our discipline will have to be spot on.
"But Connacht have more to offer than McHugh's big boot - You don't have to tell me that! They have a good blend of youth and experience in their back division with Daniel Riordan and John Hearty just two examples of the former. Some of Connacht's longest serving players, Darren Yapp, Ted Robinson, Conor McPhillips and Matt Mostyn offer bags full of the latter," he told the Mayo News.
SAY WHAT?: "I remember at scrummaging sessions I'd be in behind Claw (Peter Clohessy) and I'd try and put him through the machine. He'd turn around and go, 'Jesus Christ, will you go easy Ultan.' I didn't have the guts to correct him."
- Ultan O'Callaghan's younger brother Donncha on his early days in the Munster pack
"The majority of the time Mike wins. The problem is he's got a table in his spare bedroom. The standard of table tennis in the Scotland squad is high - if there was a Six Nations table tennis competition we would win!"
- Chris Cusiter throws down the gauntlet to the Irish squad's table tennis experts as he explains his battles, on and off the field, with Mike Blair for the Scotland number 9 jersey
"Other than being away from (my fiancee) Cath and my friends and close family, I don't miss anything about Australia. Belfast is like Brisbane - a big, friendly town. I feel settled and I'd like to think I was going to play the rest of my rugby career here."
- Ulster's Ireland 'A' prop Tom Court, 25, on settling down in the province
FULCHER HAS FRIDAY DATE IN NAVAN: Former Ireland lock Gabriel Fulcher, who won 20 Test caps between 1994 and 1998, is to travel down to Balreask Old tomorrow evening to coach the Navan Under-20 squad.
The Navan youngsters, managed by Fiona McCormack and coached by Victor Grey and Eoin Horton, are sure to benefit from the 6ft 5in Fulcher's considerable experience - he has been coaching the Lansdowne U-20s in recent seasons.
While Navan are hoping to secure the services of another former Ireland player for a coaching stint at a later date, the club have also taken on new main sponsors in Cantec. They take over from Keegan Quarries, Dunleek who will continue to provide sponsorship for the club's U-20s.
RAVERS TO PASS THROUGH 300,000 MARK: Ulster will be confirmed as the fifth-best supported team in the history of the Heineken Cup on Saturday afternoon when a capacity crowd of 12,780 passes through the gates at Ravenhill.
Toulouse are the visitors for what will be an historic clash in Belfast. Ulster's total gate in the Heineken Cup since 1995 currently stands at 292,675 and they are certain to pass through the 300,000 mark.
The figure should rise to 305,455 thanks to the visit of the French giants - giving Ulster an average of 9,545 per game. Only Toulouse (560,625), Leicester (458,264), Munster (374,685) and Leinster (337,091) can better Ulster's record.
Ulster coach Mark McCall has always recognised the benefits of the voracious support at 'Ravers'. The former Ireland centre commented: "The crowds have been great all year and have had a role to play in all the home games so far.
"We've had 10,000 for every game at Ravenhill so far this season, which is remarkable for the Magners League, and it's great to have a full house going this weekend."