McLaughlin demands Ulster show clinical side
PREDICTING an Ulster victory on the road is a hazardous exercise. While Munster and Leinster have forged reputations for achieving notable successes away from home, Ulster have never quite cracked it.
Last weekend's Heineken Cup defeat to Leicester was a case in point, when encouraging build-up play was undone by unnecessary errors at crucial times and in critical areas.
Tonight's Pro12 opponents, Glasgow (7.35 kick-off), are another side who appear far more comfortable in their home surrounds, having won their Heineken Cup opener against Bath at Firhill before being dismantled by Leinster at the RDS the following week.
They have won five of their last six matches in the Pro12 and their last three matches at Firhill. However, Ulster have a good opportunity to secure a psychologically significant victory in Glasgow tonight.
Firstly, the opposition and venue do not hold any fears -- Ulster have won their last three meetings with the Warriors and have three victories from their last five visits to Glasgow.
Secondly, there is considerable frustration in the camp following last weekend's failure to build on a hugely encouraging opening Heineken Cup win over Clermont and a determination to get back into the winning habit.
"Welford Road at the weekend was annoying," admitted coach Brian McLaughlin. "We had everything more or less right, played through some fantastic phases but made mistakes in crucial areas. If we're going to go on and get to where we want to be as a team, then we've got to eradicate those individual errors."
And thirdly, even without the rested Stephen Ferris, Rory Best, Chris Henry and Craig Gilroy, Ulster bring a potent, and balanced, side to Glasgow, who look a little underpowered -- particularly in the front five.
Willie Faloon returns to the No 7 jersey for Henry, where he forms a mobile back-row alongside Robbie Diack and Pedrie Wannenburg. Andy Kyriacou had plenty of experience at hooker in Best's absence and Adam D'Arcy -- the hero against Clermont -- comes in to the back three for Gilroy, with Simon Danielli switching to his natural wing position.
Glasgow give a debut to Samoan winger David Lemi, a noted finisher who will keep Danielli on his guard, and Jon Welsh has recovered from injury to start at loose-head, where he has an impressive scrummaging pedigree.
However, coach Sean Lineen has left some of his most established performers -- Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Richie Gray and Chris Cusiter -- on the bench, which could help the visitors in their quest for early dominance.
With Paul Marshall shining at scrum-half and an attack-minded midfield of Nevin Spence and Darren Cave, out-half Ian Humphreys has potent options outside, as well as the kicking game to play for territory when that is required.
But a great deal will hinge on the back-row, where Faloon goes up against the excellent John Barclay.
"Whenever you're playing a Scottish side you've got to make your breakdown is as accurate and as positive as possible. They'll be all over you like a rash, so we've got to make sure that we're clinical in there and that we're producing the ball," cautioned McLaughlin.
Glasgow go into the contest as favourites, but Ulster have enough strength -- in motivation and personnel -- to cause an upset.
GLASGOW -- S Hogg; D Lemi, T Nathan, G Morrison, F Aramburu; D Weir, H Pyrgos; J Welsh, P MacArthur, M Cusack; T Ryder, A Kellock (capt); R Harley, J Barclay, R Wilson. Reps: D Hall, R Grant, M Low, R Gray, C Fusaro, C Cusiter, A Dunbar, C Shaw.
ULSTER -- A D'Arcy; A Trimble, D Cave, N Spence, S Danielli; I Humphreys, P Marshall; T Court, A Kyriacou, D Fitzpatrick; J Muller (capt), D Tuohy; R Diack, W Faloon, P Wannenburg; Reps: N Brady, P McAllister, A Macklin, T Barker, M McComish, I Porter, P Jackson, I Whitten.
REF -- S Penne (Italy).
Glasgow v Ulster,
Live, RTE 2, 7.35