Monday 26 June 2017

O'Connor: 'We have to man up or Munster will take us for a walk'

Ulster's Alan O'Connor. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile
Ulster's Alan O'Connor. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ulster second-row Alan O'Connor is braced for a physical forward battle at Thomond Park on Saturday and says his side must meet their hosts on the front-line if they are to have a chance of a much-needed victory.

The northern province are in must-win territory with three matches remaining this season and have struggled to get the better of Munster in recent times, suffering defeat in their last five meetings.

They famously won a Champions Cup quarter-final away to Munster in 2012, while a largely second-string team came out on top towards the end of the 2014 season.

Les Kiss will send a strong side south on Saturday and O'Connor is calling for them to front up.

"We have to man up to them or they will take you for a walk," the Skerries native said.

"There are a good all-round pack, they have good ball carriers, they have a good set-piece and we just have to beat them at what they are good at and what we are good at, we have to make sure we're on the gain-line in attack and defence.

"Whatever team they put out they will be buzzing and it will be a tough hard one."

The second-row is relishing the visit to the Limerick stadium and a reunion with some old faces from underage squads past.

competing "I went down there at Christmas time three or four years ago and we didn't come out on top, a few boys went down in 2014 with a supposed half-strength team and turned them over; it is definitely doable and it's about manning up," he said.

"The inter-pros are the ones you really want to play in because you know these guys since you were a young fellow competing at U-16, U-18 so I look forward lining out against a few of those lads and see what it brings. I have played with Niall Scannell a good bit and I've played against his younger brother (Rory) in the AIL a few times."

With Franco van der Merwe heading for the Ulster exit door, one plus for Kiss in recent times is the budding partnership O'Connor is developing with Irish-qualified former England U-20 Kieran Treadwell.

"Kieran has been very good and has grown into the role, he is a big athletic man, he gets his hands on the ball in space," O'Connor said.

"I think we have played the last four of five games together, it's a good combination and we keep it simple. I'll do whatever is required, I'll hit rucks all day."

They will need to be at their best in the face of the Munster challenge on Saturday as Ulster look to keep their play-off challenge alive.

Irish Independent

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