McLaughlin fires up troops for 'cup final' clash with Glasgow
FOR the time being at least, Ulster have their Heineken Cup future in their own hands despite Tuesday night's defeat at home to the Ospreys.
But coach Brian McLaughlin didn't mince his words when he described tonight's trip to Glasgow as a game "we must get something out of".
Failure to take even a point from the Firhill clash would hand Connacht the initiative in the race for the third Irish Heineken Cup spot next season as they would then sit just four points behind Ulster with two games in hand.
And with Munster naming an experimental-looking squad for Sunday's trip to Galway's Sportsground, McLaughlin will be desperate to improve on an away record that has seen Ulster win just once in seven attempts in all competitions, with that success coming against a struggling Bath side in Europe.
With only two matches -- away to Edinburgh and a final-day showdown with Connacht at Ravenhill -- remaining on the fixture list after tonight, Ulster find themselves in a most uncomfortable position.
"We must be more consistent throughout the game, which is like a cup final," McLaughlin said.
"As I said at the start of the season, the Magners League is a competitive competition. Now we have teams like the Warriors looking to get into the play-offs, while others, like us, are trying to qualify for Europe."
It's been a miserable week for the province, who saw old boy Tommy Bowe deny them a losing bonus point on Tuesday and yesterday they were forced to travel by sea to Scotland after the airports were forced to close because of the ash from Iceland's volcanic eruption.
"It was not ideal preparation for a game that we must get something out of," said McLaughlin.
"There were plenty of positives to take from Tuesday's defeat. Our two tries came from turnovers in defence but, on the other hand, individual errors in defence also cost us."
Nevin Spence makes his first senior start for the province on the wing while the front row has been completely changed, with Declan Fitzpatrick taking over at tight-head and fit-again Tom Court operating at loose. Andi Kyriacou takes over the hooking duties from the injured Rory Best.
The 'Killer B' back row of Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie, which proved so effective for the national side at Croke Park, start for Glasgow as the Scottish outfit continue to chase a top-four play-off spot.
"Glasgow are another quality side and we're expecting a very tough game, it's been a quick turnaround for us, physically we're in good shape so now we just have to get the boys mentally right for this very important game.
"We don't want to have to wait until the final game of the Magners League to decide what happens next season."
Glasgow Warriors -- B Stortoni; C Shaw, M Evans, G Morrison, DTH van der Merwe; D Parks, M McMillan; K Tkachuk, F Thomson, M Low, T Barker, A Kellock, K Brown, J Barclay, J Beattie. Replacements: tbc.
Ulster -- S Danielli; A Trimble, I Whitten, D Cave, N Spence; N O'Connor, I Boss; T Court, A Kyriacou, D Fitzpatrick, R Caldwell, E O'Donoghue, S Ferris, C Henry, R Diack. Replacements: N Brady, BJ Botha, D Tuohy, D Pollock, P Marshall, I Humphreys, J Smith.
REF -- T Hayes (WRU).
Glasgow v Ulster,
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