Ulster’s flying winger Robert Baloucoune has his sights set on reaching the Challenge Cup final tomorrow (Friday) night when they take on Leicester in their semi-final encounter at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

The Fermanagh man has quickly got back up to the pace of things after a long lay-off due to a severe hamstring injury and could be an important figure for Dan McFarland’s side as they look to progress to the decider against either Bath or Montpellier.

Baloucoune is just glad to be back, playing having only returned to action at the end of February after sustaining a grade-three hamstring tear last August.

“It is great to be back, especially after such a long time out, and getting a run of games has been really important as well,” he said.

“The first game I was back, I think I touched the ball about six times in the first five minutes, so it got me stuck in right away and that was probably the best way to get back into the game. It was just great to be back on the pitch and then to get a try against Leinster; getting back into the swing of things has been good.”

And it is a case of so far so good in terms of his injury.

“My body is getting used to the load again, but I have felt fit going into the matches so I have been happy enough.

“It is just watching myself and making sure that I don’t overdo it because I have been out so long. It is a case of just keeping on top of it,” he stated.

Ulster will be on their travels again this week with this, their third successive away trip in the competition, and Baloucoune expects a tough test against the English outfit.

“It would have been nice to have a home fixture at Kingspan – this is our third time away from home, so we will have to do it the hard way.

“It is a semi-final, so we know it is going to be a tough match, but we are all looking forward to it.

“We know how important the semi-final is and we will be giving it our best,” he commented.

And he says that their sole focus now is getting through to the final of the competition, with the player himself keen to make up for having missed the PRO-14 final last year due to injury.

“It would be great to get through to the final, that’s what we have been set on from since we were put into the Challenge Cup. I missed the final against Leinster in the PRO-14 last year, so it would be great to get to another one,” added the former Enniskillen player.

Indeed, he feels that going on and winning silverware is important for the progression of the current Ulster squad.

“I don’t think mamy in the squad have experienced it and we are all wanting the same thing, and that is the silverware, and it’s the same with the Rainbow Cup. These are the two cups that we can win and that is what we are going to strive for,” he said.

Leicester are sure to provide a stern test of Ulster’s credentials on Friday night, and Baloucoune stresses that they are going to have to get off to a better start than they did against Northampton in the previous round if they are to come out on top.

“We didn’t really start too well against Northampton; obviously, the second half was a lot better, but I think we will have to start better than we did in that game.

“If you let them get away they will put points on you, and they have players who are able to pin you back.

“It is a semi-final so it will be important to come out of the blocks hard, and that’s what we will look to do,” he added.