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Wilson: Montpellier Will Be Another Step Up

Wilson: Montpellier Will Be Another Step Up

Roger Wilson, Ulster’s man-of-the-match against Leicester Tigers, has warned his team-mates to prepare for another hard-edged physical encounter when they take on the might of Montpellier next Saturday.

The Ulstermen made a positive start to Heineken Cup Pool 5 last night, with Paddy Jackson kicking five penalties and converting Tommy Bowe’s first half try as they saw off Leicester Tigers’ challenge 22-16.

In his second season back at Ravenhill, Roger Wilson shone in the physical exchanges up front and maintained an impressively high work-rate throughout as part of a combative back row completed by number 8 Nick Williams and Chris Henry.

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Wilson, playing at blindside flanker, is the sort of hard grafter in the tight and strong defender and poacher that Mark Anscombe’s men will be reliant on next weekend when they try to outmuscle a highly regarded Montpellier side on their home patch.

Giving his assessment of Ulster’s round 2 opponents, who currently sit second in the Top 14 Championship, he said: “Montpellier are flying high at the minute. This week was physical and I think next week’s going to be another step up again.

“They’ve torn apart some of the top French teams in the last few weeks. I think this group is one where you’re never going to look to go out and get four tries and bonus points as far as that.

“Each game is tough, and it’s very difficult to see too far in the future, but I think it could literally go down to the last week. It’s going to be very tight and certainly we’ll be looking to get the victory (next week).”

Montpellier open their European campaign away to Benetton Treviso this afternoon, with Fabien Galthié’s charges no doubt eager to transfer their league form into cup combat.

Indeed, it was a real war of attrition at times in Belfast where the Ulster and Leicester packs slugged it out and the scrappy nature of the contest seemed to suit Wilson who hoovered up a couple of key balls that squirted loose.

“Games against Leicester are always very physical. They’re one of the top teams in the Premiership and the top teams in Europe. Historically they’ve set their foundations up front. We always knew it was going to be a tough, tough battle in that area,” explained the 32-year-old.

“We knew it was going to take maybe 60, 70 minutes to wear them down. You saw it towards the end, a lot of the forwards were out on their feet. It was a great effort and a physical battle and the boys should be proud of it.”

He added: “There was a fair bit of kicking done and there were a few knock ons, but I thought we did well to react to those. We were first down on the ball most of the time.

“But yeah, maybe just a bit of first-up reaction went our way. I think we dominated that area, we were slightly quicker to react (to loose balls and knock ons).”

Although more recognised as an out-and-out number 8, Wilson is happy to make the move to blindside flanker and play his part – especially after an injury-interrupted 2012/13 season.

“It’s not a massively different role (compared to number 8). At the end of the day, I just want to get out on the pitch and I don’t think there is a massive difference between the two. So if I’m picked in either position, I’m happy to do a job.

“It’s a squad effort and I think throughout the year, boys are going to be asked to play different positions. It’s just a case of getting down and learning one or two new calls. But it’s gone well so far, so I’m happy enough.”

Last January Ulster registered their first competitive victory on French soil when they squeezed past Castres Olympique, a day Wilson will not want to remember personally as he damaged his hamstring in the 28th minute and had to be replaced.

Anscombe’s side will return to France with a good deal more confidence than they would have had just a few weeks ago, when they opened the RaboDirect PRO12 with back-to-back defeats.

But a run of victories over Connacht, Treviso, the Ospreys and Leicester has seen them build considerable momentum as players like Paddy Jackson, Wilson, Luke Marshall and Bowe wield increasing influence.

The Ulster head coach was satisfied with the four points picked up against Leicester, even if the performance was lacking the bonus point fireworks of their 41-7 victory over the same opposition in January 2012.

Speaking after last night’s game, Anscombe said: “They (Leicester) might be happy with a point but our objective was to get four points and we achieved that, each week and each game we play that is our objective and if we stick to doing that we’ll come through.

“We’re happy with the four and there’s only six games (in the pool) and you have to win your home games to be there at the end of the day and we have won our first one, we’ll enjoy that and then we’ll start to think about our trip to France next Saturday.”

Out-half Jackson was in match-winning form against the Ospreys in the league last time out, and the young Ireland international’s kicking was top notch again as he racked up 17 points against the Tigers.

Although admitting that Ulster left a few tries behind them, Anscombe was pleased to see Jackson keeping his standards high off the kicking tee.

“We know what Paddy is capable of and as a team we have all the confidence in the world in the guy. He started the season a little slow but he is hitting his straps at the right time.

“He is 22 and he is growing into a very good number 10. He was good (tonight), we played at the right end he kicks his goals, only missed one, we played at the right end of the park.

“We left a few tries out there, we created some good opportunities but we’re not having the luck (at the moment). We have to keep positive and keep playing rugby and we know those opportunities will stick sooner or later,” aded the New Zealander.