Thursday 29 September 2016

'Ulster screaming hot favourites'

Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30

Ulster's Stuart McCloskey (SPORTSFILE)
Ulster's Stuart McCloskey (SPORTSFILE)

Defence coach Kurt McQuilkin has moved to try and heap the pressure on Ulster this evening as Leinster look to reverse the 30-6 defeat they suffered in Belfast three weeks ago.

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This evening's opponents have won their last four games on the bounce and despite the fact that Leinster have not been beaten at the RDS since the Dragons shocked them last year, McQuilkin insists that Ulster come into the mouth-watering semi-final clash as 'screaming hot favourites'.

The New Zealander is refusing to read too much into either side's recent form, however, as he believes that form only plays a small part when it comes to knockout rugby.

Ulster finished four points behind Leinster at the end of the regular season having lost two more games but McQuilkin is only too aware of their attacking threat.

"Ulster after their victory over us a couple of weeks ago would be going in as red-hot favourites," he said.

"They're in a good vein of form with four good wins recently, attacking-wise scoring some terrific tries across the park. They'll come into it screaming hot favourites.

"It's a knockout. Form does play a wee part but it's cup footy now and it's a case of just getting out there and win. . . whether it's by three points, two points or 50 points you just got to get a win."

Leinster's defence has been one of the main reasons that they finished top of the table and sealed a home semi-final but in recent weeks, Ulster and the Pro12's worst team Treviso both managed to score three tries against them.

This evening's meeting is between the two sides with the best defensive records in the league this season with Leinster conceding two fewer (27) tries than Ulster (29) but the way in which the northern province opened the Blues up will be a cause of concern for Leo Cullen.

Leinster, however, managed to keep Ulster try-less when they won 8-3 in Dublin back in November and given that the the notherners did the same to Cullen's side in Belfast, something has to give this evening with a place in next weekend's Edinburgh final up for grabs.

"Funny enough, I didn't take that (Ulster defeat) as badly as the Treviso one," McQuilkin said

"Why? Because the Ulster game was a penalty try, there was an intercept on attack, which is very hard to defend, and for the second try Lukey Fitz was in the bin but they still ran a good play to score it.

"It hurts you but the penalty try, they can be debatable at times and the intercept, they're bloody hard to defend.

"The Treviso game we mentally knocked off in that fourth quarter and that would be what really got under my skin and we've had discussions about that since then.

"I'm not worried at all. It's a case of just getting back on the horse and getting out there and playing rugby in front of 19,100 people."

Ulster have been markedly improved under Less Kiss and as Ireland's former defence coach, McQuilkin can certainly appreciate the steeliness he has brought.

However, he knows that Leinster must focus on themselves and not get too caught up with the manner in which they lost in the Kingspan Stadium.

"It's up to us to find other ways of getting around defences too," he added.

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