Heineken Cup: Ulster host Saracens in quarter-final at Ravenhill
Last Updated: 05/04/14 9:04am
Kelly Brown is wary of the cauldron-like atmosphere that awaits Saracens when they take on Ulster in their Heineken Cup quarter-final on Saturday, which is being shown live on Sky Sports 2 HD from 6pm.
Saracens will arrive at Ravenhill in confident mood after extending their lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership table to seven points with back-to-back wins over Harlequins and Wasps.
The Men in Black can expect a wholly different challenge in Belfast, however, taking on an Ulster side who won all six matches in the tournament's pool stage and are undefeated at home since September.
Brown's father's side of the family are all Irish and the Scotland skipper knows the home crowd will be well motivated for Saturday's game.
He said: "My dad is from Ulster so I've been getting a lot of stories from him about the excitement and the level of interest in the game over there.
"I'm expecting an unbelievable atmosphere. They could probably have sold out this match four or five times over which just shows the level of excitement and the level of expectation there is there, but as a player you want to be involved in these big games."
Saracens beat Ulster on home soil at the same stage of the competition last year and Brown says the side are fully focused this time around.
"All we can do is focus on ourselves, that's what we've being doing this week," he said.
"We've looked at Ulster and identified their main strengths, which there are a lot of, and we have tried to find a few weaknesses of which there aren't that many.
"We want to go over there and impose ourselves on them and try to put them under as much pressure as we can."
Saracens are growing used to the big occasion having now reached the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup for the past three seasons.
"That experience definitely helps," Brown added.
"If you look at the squad now, we've got experienced players and even some of the younger guys like Mako and Billy Vunipola, they have played a lot of big games now.
"Playing at Ulster is the sort of thing you have to handle together and as a squad I think it's the sort of thing we enjoy.
"We've played a lot of teams away - last season we played at something like nine different home venues - it will be tough but we're really looking forward to it."
In a major boost, Ruan Pienaar is available for Ulster following a recent injury and the World Cup winner lines up alongside Paddy Jackson.
Tommy Bowe is named on the left wing, with Andrew Trimble selected on the right.
There are four Ireland internationals on the bench with Stephen Ferris, Iain Henderson, Craig Gilroy and Paul Marshall joined by Rob Herring, Ricky Lutton, Robbie Diack and Andrew Warwick.
Up against Pienaar will be Saracens' Richard Wigglesworth, who gets the nod over Neil de Kock at scrum-half.
England fly-half Owen Farrell comes back into the side from the team that beat Wasps, while Saracens go for Duncan Taylor at outside centre ahead of Chris Wyles.
Billy Vunipola makes a welcome return, the England international starting at blindside flanker, with Namibian openside Jacques Burger wearing the No.7 shirt and Ernst Joubert packing down at No.8.
On the bench, Neil de Kock will make his 200th appearance for Sarries should he feature. Scotland skipper Brown will bring up his half-century of Heineken Cup appearances if he comes on.
Ulster: 15 Payne, 14 Trimble, 13 Cave, 12 Marshall, 11 Bowe, 10 Jackson, 9 Pienaar; 1 Court, 2 Best, 3 Afoa, 4 Muller (capt), 5 Tuohy, 6 Wilson, 7 Henry, 8 Williams
Replacements: 16 Herring, 17 Warwick, 18 Lutton, 19 Henderson, 20 Ferris, 21 Diack, 22 Marshall, 23 Gilroy.
Saracens: 15 Goode, 14 Ashton, 13 Taylor, 12 Barritt, 11 Strettle, 10 Farrell, 9 Wigglesworth; 1 M Vunipola, 2 Brits, 3 Johnston, 4 Borthwick (capt), 5 Botha, 6 B Vunipola, 7 Burger, 8 Joubert
Replacements: 16 George, 17 Barrington, 18 Stevens, 19 Sheriff, 20 Brown, 21 de Kock, 22 Hodgson, 23 Wyles.