Ulster Rugby v Benetton Rugby


Paul Marshall rose through the ranks of the Academy to a senior Ulster contract in 2006, making his debut the same season. Tonight, he celebrates making his 200th appearance for Ulster Rugby, joining fellow team mates Andrew Trimble, Robbie Diack and Rory Best who also have 200 caps to their names.

In a sport where injuries are common and players are required daily to put their bodies on the line, for a player to reach 200 caps is quite an achievement and one that is made even more special for Marshall who grew up dreaming of playing for Ulster. “It’s funny, when you start off you definitely dream about getting your first game. You get a taste for it and you think I’d love to get 10, 20, 30 games. Then when you get your first big milestone of 100 games your mind wanders and you wonder will you still be still be playing to push on and try and get 200. Now as I’m approaching 200 I think “ah, it would be nice to get 300” but I might be a wee bit too old for that when the time comes!” With over a decade of experience at Ulster Rugby under his belt he finds it difficult to pick just one stand out memory from his time wearing the Ulster shirt. “When I sit back and reflect, for me it’s still the enjoyment factor and the buzz of getting to play every week. Training is good and training is fun but getting to actually go out and play against an opposition, in front of a crowd and that buzz, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, it’s that feeling which stands out in my mind and it’s a thing that I still get every time I play. Especially when I’m starting, I get so nervous because you always feel under pressure to prove to yourself, your teammates and everybody that you deserve to be in that situation. It’s just been a joy to play with some great players over the years, to be coached by some great coaches and just to be part of the organisation which I grew up as a schoolboy wanting to be involved in.” The familiar roar of the Kingspan faithful is sure to add to the special occasion tonight but given Benetton’s recent form it will not be an easy fixture as Marshall is well aware. “When you look at the league this year, it’s more competitive again than it was last year. Both the

Italian teams have really lifted their game and I think when you see their results - Benetton nearly beat Toulon at home - they tell you just how far they’ve come in the last year or two. So tonight will be a tough game. My 100th game was away from home and my 150th game was away from home, so it will be nice to get my 200th cap at home in front of friends and family and it would be even better to mark the occasion with a win.” With the departure of Ruan Pienaar at the end of last season there is increased competition for the number 9 shirt but Marshall is confident that is not only a good thing for his individual development but also for the squad as a whole. “I was really looking forward to this season, to try and push on and make the jersey my own but for one reason or another I haven’t been involved quite as much as I would have liked which is a bit frustrating from a rugby point of view. I think I’m a better player now than I was when 19 or 20 years old so whoever has been here, and whoever has been wearing the number 9 shirt hasn’t stopped me from personally improving and developing and becoming a better player. It might have limited my own game time in big matches but that’s something you just have to deal with. Obviously, I don’t want to be sitting on the bench watching someone else play, but I feel that when I’ve got on I’ve contributed ok and the starts that I’ve had have gone well and hopefully moving forward I’ll be more involved. “It’s a really exciting time for Ulster Rugby as we’ve a lot of new guys coming in. Johnny [Stewart] has come in and done really well. He’s a very talented young guy and it would be great to see him come through and kick on. Aaron Cairns has come in this year as well and has done really well, he’s a tremendous athlete. Dave Shanahan has been here for the last couple of years and always pushes hard at training. He always wants to do extras and I find that’s good for me because I want to keep on and do extras as well. And of




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