After a short break due to no competitive action, Kieron Dawson and his Ulster team-mates were back at the coal face earlier this week as they prepare to take on Portugal in a much-anticipated friendly match.
Portugal are on a short Irish tour, following on from their 21-13 defeat to Canada in Lisbon last weekend. They face Connacht at the Sportsground on Sunday and then Ulster next Thursday at Ravenhill (kick-off 7.30pm).
Pressed on his knowledge of the Portuguese side and their play, Kieron Dawson told the Ulster Rugby website: “I don’t know a lot really, they are an emerging talent in international rugby union. They played well in last year’s Rugby World Cup.
“They lost their World Cup games but played well in their pool with Italy only beating them 31-5. They also put in good performances against Scotland and the All Blacks.
“They are a strong force on the international Sevens circuit and I played against them on that circuit in the not so dark and distant past!
“As a Sevens team they are very hard to play against, they are a very skilful and strong.”
Ulster coach Matt Williams is sure to have some decent video analysis done on the tourists, but Dawson feels that by concentrating on themselves, they can get more out of this one-off game.
“It is hard to prepare for a team that you haven’t seen much of so I think it is important that we just concentrate on ourselves,” said the former Ireland international.
“In many ways the shackles are off for us in this game. There are no league points to gain and it is purely a game for us to test ourselves.
“We can express ourselves in this game and play some good old fashioned rugby. It will be a very hard physical challenge but we are all up for it.”
Since Ulster’s impressive Magners League win over Munster last month, Dawson and his non-international team-mates were afforded a week off and the 33-year-old felt the benefit of the time off.
“I just spent some time with my family in Brighton and played with my young son a lot. I feel really well rested after a few days away,” he explained.
“We did fitness testing on our first day back on Monday, it was really tough after the few days away but it is great to be back and everyone is focused on our goals for this week.”
Despite the break for the autumn internationals, this is still a busy time for the Ulster squad with the Portugal game to look forward to, an ‘A’ squad trip to Cardiff and then a vital clash with Connacht when the Magners League resumes on Friday, November 28.
“The win over Munster was a really good boost for us, we have a happy camp anyway but it certainly made it a lot happier!
“It is very important for us to get some wins in the league – a few good performances and the league table can change dramatically,” Dawson added.
Meanwhile, tickets for the Ulster v Portugal fixture are priced in line with the current economic climate, with adult tickets starting at just £10 to stand and £14 for a ticket in the covered stand.
Match tickets can be bought online by clicking here, or you can buy tickets over the counter at Ravenhill or by telephoning 02890493222 (Option 2, Monday to Friday).
General Ulster Rugby Sale Prices:
Block B/C/D – £20
Block A/E – £20
Promenade/Terrace – Adult £10/Child £6
YellowTom Stand – Adult £14/Child £7