We poked an angry Leinster bear up in Belfast, warns Kiss
Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30
Given that no team has ever won an away Pro12 semi-final, Ulster's hopes of taking a giant step towards ending their 10-year wait for a trophy would seem slim enough but they arrive in Dublin this evening full of confidence.
Ulster have lost three of those semi-finals, the latest coming against the eventual champions Glasgow Warriors last season; in contrast, the RDS hosts its sixth Pro12 semi-final in seven years.
Les Kiss' side did lose to Leinster (8-6) back in November but with the recent 30-6 hammering of the Blues fresh in their minds, they will not fear Leo Cullen's men.
"There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then," Kiss said of the improvements his side have made since that defeat in Scotstoun 12 months ago.
"To win away from home in a semi, it hasn't been done. That makes it tougher but the game from last year is history. The past is the past and the only things that come from it is the lessons you've learned."
The Ulster supporters, 5,000 of whom are expected to make the journey down the M1, may be buoyed their side's excellent end-of-season form but Kiss warned that Leinster are a different prospect on their home turf.
Cullen's side have not lost at the RDS since the Dragons last year and Kiss knows the scale of the task that lies ahead.
"Leinster down there is probably the hardest one you could get," the former Ireland defence coach said.
"They're just a tough beast down there and I'm very wary of what they can do. The last time we played them, we maybe poked an angry bear but they're awake now and they won't deliver what they did then.
"It was quite obvious, even by their own admission, that they weren't as good as they can be.
"We don't expect them to be anywhere near that; we think they'll be a completely different team.
"Each win has been imperative and our season has been like this for a while now. I hope we've managed it in an energising way rather than a depleting way.
"You aspire to win the big ones and we've had a lot of them in a row now. That's been a plus for us. One of the things that can happen is you get deconditioned to what it is and what it means.
"Even though it's one of the toughest, maybe it's ideal for us (to play Leinster) as it steels the mind. It's going to be massive to go to their patch and win."
Stuart McCloskey's individual battle with Ben Te'o - two of the in-form centres in the county this season - is one of several fascinating match-ups and the first collision between the heavyweight duo has the potential to shake the foundations of the RDS.
"Everyone around the province is on a bit of a high having won the last four games and collected two bonus points to qualify, so hopefully we can push on now and win the play-off," McCloskey enthused.
"Both teams are very strong defensively and are also among the top try scorers in the league, so we are well aware that we will need to be very efficient with any opportunities that are presented while trying to ensure we contain Leinster's attacking threat."