Pictured above: Ulster coach Mark McCall brings his players together for a team talk at Newforge Country Club in Belfast. The former Ireland centre, who turned 39 last week, travels to his former club this weekend as London Irish entertain Ulster in the Heineken Cup.
McCall played six times for 'Irish in the 1997/98 Heineken Cup season, lining out against the likes of Stade Francais, Dax and Farul Constanta. His Exiles team-mates back then included Conor O'Shea, Niall Woods, Justin Bishop, Niall Hogan, Gary Haplin, Jeremy Davidson and Malcolm O'Kelly.
Interestingly both David Humphreys and Justin Fitzpatrick, who were also colleagues of McCall back then at Sunbury, are now coached by him at Ulster.
Ireland prop Simon Best is hoping the wheels do not come off Ulster's Heineken Cup wagon in Reading. With 'Irish mid-table in the Guinness Premiership and having taken some heavy beatings in the EDF Energy Cup, the time seems right for the province to end their long wait for a win in England.
While admitting the pressure is on, coach McCall said: "We've been here before. Last year we had five games left in the Celtic League and we knew that if we slipped up once we wouldn't win the title and we dealt with that very well.
"We got ourselves in a winning position and were able to close the deal and I think we're a better team now. The players enjoyed that pressure last season and were still able to perform with confidence and they are enjoying it again this week."
Experienced backs Paul Steinmetz and David Humphreys arrive for training at Newforge. Humphreys' former London Irish and Ireland team-mate Justin Bishop talked this week about Saturday's game, which is expected to bring an attendance in excess of 15,000 to the Madejski Stadium.
The 32-year-old winger said: "My mother is from Hollywood in Down and Northern Ireland is a small place. Everyone has been talking about his game since the summer - they're licking their lips. There'll be a lot of banter and personal duels. It's a must-win game for them."
David Humphreys is obviously took busy practising his goal-kicking to head for the car wash! The Ulster out-half's mischievous team-mates have managed to write some topical graffiti on the side of his car at Newforge. The questions remains - will the play-making solicitor be celebrating his 36th birthday in France next September?
Ireland scrum half Isaac Boss heads up the steps to the training pitch. The 26-year-old will be hoping for a repeat of his try heroics against Toulouse in Reading on Saturday. He sniped through for a memorable first half score in the 30-3 win over the French giants in October.
His personal duel with Paul Hodgson, the lively Exiles number 9, should be one to watch.
Kieron Dawson, the Bangor-born flanker who won the last of 21 Ireland caps against Scotland in September 2003, admitted that he is feeling slightly nervous about his trip back to his former employers 'Irish. Saturday will also mark his first European start for the province.
He said: "Tean years at any club is a long time and it will be difficult to go back because I have so many connections with guys there. I'm still very interested in how they do. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't massively important to me personally to go back and play well against old friends.
"It's tinged with nervousness because I know it won't be a pleasant place if we lose but I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again and am excited to be playing."
David Humphreys boasts a phenomenal kicking record in the Heineken Cup. The former tournament winner has slotted over 40 conversions, 110 penalties and 19 drop goals, as well as touching down 13 tries, to be ranked as the fourth highest scorer in Heineken Cup history. His current tally of 532 points is 78 behind the third-placed Stephen Jones, the Llanelli and Wales out-half.
Committed as ever, Ulster and Ireland flanker Neil Best takes a time-out during training. Speaking during the week, the on-form Belfast man said: "I haven't won in France and I haven't won in England so it's important that we get an away win on Saturday.
"If we don't, we can consider ourselves out of the competition because of the strength of the other teams in our pool (Toulouse and Llanelli)."
**All photos by Oliver McVeigh of Sportsfile**