Ulster: High-flying Nick Timoney keeping 'chip on the shoulder'

Nick Timoney
Timoney was instrumental in helping Ulster secure a home United Rugby Championship quarter-final

Ulster's Nick Timoney says keeping "a chip on the shoulder" has helped him take his game to the next level after another man of the match display against Sharks on Friday.

The flanker delivered influential performances in Ulster's final two games as they returned to winning ways to secure a top-four finish in the URC.

They had been in danger of missing out on a home quarter-final after three consecutive league defeats came in the same period as their Champions Cup exit at the hands of Toulouse.

"I think I was maybe guilty, similar to the team, of just running out of steam a small bit over that dip in form," Timoney said.

"It felt like a long season, but those couple of weeks off you get to have a look back, look at some of the good games, some of the bad games, what works and doesn't work, what frame of mind you need to be in.

"Those couple of weeks off came at an unbelievable time for me personally and for the squad.

"Coming back into a gameweek this week, that excitement level and freshness is back. You feel revitalised and you know it's the last stretch into the end of the season and every game you've got to go hard."

The Dublin-born flanker has been a fixture of Ulster's starting side all season having established himself as a key figure for his adopted province.

Having joined in 2016 and initially found himself in and out of the team, the former Blackrock College captain is now something of an ever-present and has worked his way into the Ireland set-up having made his international debut last summer.

"I guess I always look at myself and where I'm at in my rugby career, and I assess if I'm all that happy," the 26-year-old reflected.

"When I was a kid or if you'd asked me at the start of my career what I would have wanted to achieve at 26 I'd have ultimately said I'd have wanted to have won the league, the Champions Cup, have played 20 or 30 times for Ireland like a lot of lads that I'm mates with have.

"The worst thing you can have in a team is just people that are happy getting picked. I just look at all the things I don't have or all the things I've failed on and try to use that sometimes."

Watch: Ulster survive late Sharks surge to seal home quarter-final

Timoney was the standout performer as Ulster secured a home quarter-final by defeating the Sharks with a confident display that nearly ended in disaster as they conceded two late tries to see a seemingly comfortable lead reduced to just three points in the final minutes.

However they held out to claim the vital win, with Timoney named man of the match for a dynamic display in attack and defence.

"Ultimately I know my position in the squad," he said after the victory.

"I've got to play pretty much every game this year so from that point of view I feel lucky but also especially in a position like the back row, a couple of months out of form and that can all go away.

"From my point of view it's keep the same chip on my shoulder, keep the same hunger I had when I was not getting picked at all.

"I just have tried to not really think like that. I know how fickle things can be. I don't think it's a thing of getting comfortable, because if you get comfortable you probably get left behind."

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