Last Friday night was one of he highlights of Craig Gilroy’s blossoming career as an Ulster and Ireland winger. The 38-0 home win over Toulouse stunned the rest of Europe, but he and his team-mates always believed the French giants could be felled.
Nonetheless, Craig Gilroy is very wary of what awaits in the Champions Cup return in Toulouse this Sunday, all too familiar with the often improbable and illogical turnarounds in back-to-back European encounters.
“Although obviously we enjoyed last Friday, and took pride in what we had achieved and about the way we went about our business in the week before the game, in terms of our training and preparation, this is a totally different game over there in France,” he said.
“As far as we are concerned it’s nil-nil in this fixture. We’ve put last weekend aside, taken some positives from it, clearly, but we’ve been making ‘tweaks’ which we hope will add to our performance level.
“Toulouse will be a totally different proposition at home in front of their own crowd. It’s part of our plan to do everything we can to block out the crowd and the atmosphere in the stadium.
“And the best way to do that is to play well, to express ourselves as we know we can, and to get down to our work this weekend and get the result we need to make last Friday mean something.
“Yes, the win at the Kingspan was a highlight of my career in an Ulster jersey, but I think it will mean more when I’m looking back at my time in rugby. To me we need to approach every game as we did the last couple of weeks, for the platform for the European win was built the previous week.
“In dreadful conditions we showed against Edinburgh in the PRO12 that we could adapt, even to the early rash of injuries to big players, and there was a momentum growing already by the time we started to prepare for Toulouse at home,” added Gilroy, so unlucky to miss out on a Rugby Word Cup call-up, but who threw himself into Ulster’s season with relish.
“I’m 24, and I was disappointed to miss out on the World Cup, but it meant with key players away there was a responsibility on me to stand up and be counted, to be a leader if you like.
“The belief Les Kiss had in us, the faith that Ulster-born coaches like Neil Doak, Niall Malone and Allen Clarke all had in us, was massively important. We’d had a tough few weeks from the media after a couple of poor displays and, for the right reasons, we wanted to put the record straight.
“But Sunday is a different kettle of fish, and all 23 players in the matchday panel will be properly prepared, physically and mentally.
“These are the games you want to play in, and make no mistake we are taking on ‘the beast’ that is Toulouse at home. Second in the Top 14? They’ll want to show their fans what they can do. But we’re focusing on what we can do, and that’s the secret, and to learn from any mistakes from the past.
“And for me that is to remember to switch the ball to the other hand when crossing the line!,” he quipped, referring to a missed score last week. “I knew Doaky would be on my case about that, it was something I know I should do when making sure I ‘dot down’, but I got in first at the dressing room door and told him it wouldn’t happen again.”
Hopefully the engaging Gilroy will be his usual bubbly and free-flowing self on Sunday. “It’s a big game, we know that and we love that too. We go to France to work, to do our jobs and if we do them well the result looks after itself.”