This article was originally published in the Ulster vs Aironi official match programme on October 8, 2010.
Andrew Trimble has been a regular starter for the Ulster team since he joined the squad in 2005, following a development contract the previous year. Alongside his 104 appearances for his province, Andrew currently has 29 caps for his country and was a member of the Ireland team which toured New Zealand and Australia during the summer. This week, Jacqueline Purse caught up with the centre and winger to discuss his thoughts on the season so far, his predictions for the Heineken Cup and how he’s recovering from summer surgery.
“I’ve enjoyed getting back into rugby and trying to build up my confidence as a player. It can take a few games to get into the way of things, but it’s great to be playing again, especially as I was able to come back sooner than I expected. To score a try on my first match back felt amazing! I really wanted to get into the game early, because of my finger, so to get the ball in my hands and score after five minutes, was very pleasing and gave me a great boost.”
“I had a fracture dislocation in my finger, but since the surgery it has been getting better. Although Johann [Muller] sat on my finger during the Glasgow match, and it’s slightly sore again now!” laughs Andrew.
With four wins and one draw from their first five matches, Ulster are the only team heading into Europe unbeaten, and it’s something Andrew takes a lot of pride in.
“During the Glasgow match there were times when we were chasing a lead, yet I always believed we would win the game, and I think that winning mentality is developing through the entire squad. Last year, in the equivalent game we wouldn’t have won so we are definitely in a positive mindset and we hope to bring that confidence into the Heineken Cup. If we can play entertaining rugby and score a few more tries, we’ll be delighted.”
“Everyone is enjoying the new season and we’ve matured as a team. There’s a great balance among the players and having Johann, Pedrie [Wannenburg] and Ruan [Pienaar] who are world class players, join us this season is fantastic. They are very important to our squad and we are very appreciative of what they are bringing to the side.”
“They are all great guys and they’ve settled in really well. BJ [Botha] has been a great help to them especially, but they have made every effort to get to know us and get involved with us outside of rugby which has been brilliant.”
With the Magners League giving way to the Heineken Cup for a few weeks, Trimble admits there is a sense of excitement around training this week.
“It’s strange. We’ve played Aironi in the Magners League already but because you’re playing for the Heineken Cup it gives you an added incentive to start out well. There’s more importance placed on each game because if you don’t make it past the group stages, you only play six games. It’s a big competition for us, but it’s one we’ve targeted and we want to do well and get through our group.”
Ulster face Bath, Biarritz and Italian side Aironi in this year’s pool stages of the Heineken Cup, and whilst some view this the easiest group in the competition, Andrew admits it’s not the case.
“Rory Best was at the launch of the tournament at the beginning of the week, and talking with him, many people don’t see our group as difficult. When you look at Leinster’s and Munster’s groups you can appreciate that they are difficult, but we’ve been in those groups in the past.
“We face Aironi this weekend and it’s going to be a really tough game. We’re under no illusions about what they’re bringing to Ravenhill – they are a very physical team with a number of strong leaders. It’s also a new competition for them, so they will be out to play good rugby.
“With Bath, there is a certain amount of familiarity as we played them at the start of the season, but at the same time it’s a very different Bath side to the one we faced last year. They have Olly Barkley, Michael Classens and Luke Watson who are great players, and it’s going to be difficult to beat them, especially at The Rec, but we will focus on our own quality and hope to match theirs.”
“Again, with Biarritz – they’re a hot bed of rugby! They love their rugby and have an amazing team which has been doing well in the Top 14. I think it’s important for us as a team, not to lose focus, because no matter who you play in Europe, it will be tough. We need to produce performances which will justify us and show how hard we are working.”
Following a successful season for Ulster last year, Andrew was selected to join the Ireland squad for their summer tour of New Zealand and Australia, and it was an experience he doesn’t take for granted.
“I’ve had a few operations over the last couple of years which have kept me out of a tour, and while it was disappointing, it made me look forward to the tour this summer and appreciate the small things about being away with the international squad. To represent my country again, means the world to me and it was something I wanted to learn from and enjoy.”
“Even though we didn’t get the results we wanted, it was a great experience. I had two starts for Ireland and it gave me a lot of confidence to play well. Hopefully we can bounce back from a disappointing tour for the Autumn Internationals.”
“The target in mind is to be able to play against South Africa, but at the minute I’m not looking any further than the Heineken Cup. I think if you play well for Ulster, then you’ll get the opportunities to play for Ireland. It won’t be easy though as there is so much competition at the minute. It can help to bring out the best in you and this begins for me on Friday night – it’s something I’m really looking forward to.”