Eric O’Sullivan reflects on Ulster’s commanding performance in their 40-15 victory against Glasgow on Monday evening.
“It was definitely a good performance from us,” O’Sullivan says. “I thought we did well to get into the game after a sluggish start; we just rolled up the sleeves and got a foothold in the game. There are definitely a lot of elements that we can still improve on; we could be a bit more clinical at times, but it was definitely a good win.”
Four of the six tries scored against Glasgow were by Ulster forwards, which O’Sullivan put down to the pack having a more hardened edge this season.
“It is always something we talk about as a squad, that you need to be really able to get stuck into teams if you want to be in the top level. . Teams in the past have maybe thought that Ulster have a soft under–belly but we are doing our best to try and correct that.”
The 24-year-old made his 50th appearance for Ulster, after just over two seasons – an impressive achievement – but the prop is more focused on the team’s efforts, rather than celebrating his individual milestone.
“It was great to get the win and have a good performance on top of making my 50th appearance. For me, it’s the good team performances we remember – it’s not about the individual achievements, so I was happy to get a good win.”
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) November 9, 2020
Having made his debut versus the Scarlets in September 2018, the loosehead has quickly racked up the number of appearances he has made for the province.
“When I first got my opportunity, Kyle McCall was meant to be on the bench but he got injured so I came onto the bench and then I got a good run of games, which I never expected. My goal for that year was 10 caps and I had that by Christmas.
“Once you’re in and playing, you’re happy as long as you feel like you are doing well. I’m trying to improve – I don’t spend too long thinking about it – I just focus on the week-to-week.”
After such a strong start in the 2020-21 Guinness PRO14, it comes as no surprise that confidence is high within the Ulster squad, however O’Sullivan, the players and coaches refuse to rest on their laurels. The 24-year-old is also missing the atmosphere created by supporters at Kingspan Stadium.
“We’re happy with how we have started,” he says. “There have been a couple of games where we could have improved on and really put teams to the sword. It’s not the same without fans there to cheer you home and running out to an empty stadium is a bit weird. We’re happy with where we are at and there are things we can work on, but the sooner we can have fans back, the better.”
Dan McFarland and the Ulster coaching team have used 40 players since rugby resumed in August, which O’Sullivan feels is crucial to the squad achieving success.
“Having that squad depth is really important; a lot of those guys are really putting their hands up and putting in good performances when they get their opportunities.
“It is important when you do get those opportunities that you play well because you never know when you will get them again. For myself personally, I’m just trying my best to make an impact and hope I’m doing enough to keep my name in the team. If we want to challenge and be a top team, we’re going to need a good squad. I think we have gone a long way to showing we have a lot of good guys.”
Ulster’s next challenge will be to face Zebre away on Monday evening, and the loosehead is conscious of their improvement in recent seasons.
“Zebre have been a very much improving team and we are not going to be able to take anything for granted there. You saw them against the Scarlets, if you don’t get things right against them they are very capable of putting scores past teams. We’ll focus on them and how we are going to go about trying to get the win.”
When asked about the prospect of collecting more Ulster appearances, considering his youth in prop years, the 24-year-old remains grounded.
“I’m just trying to focus on my individual performances and try to be as good as I can be. As long as I perform, there’s no reason why I can’t get more caps.”