Tuesday 6 December 2016

Massive test of strength in battle for second spot

Brian Walsh

Published 08/05/2015 | 02:30

Munster's Donnacha Ryan goes through line-out practice ahead of the Pro 12 clash against Ulster
Munster's Donnacha Ryan goes through line-out practice ahead of the Pro 12 clash against Ulster

We play Ulster tomorrow and it's arguably the biggest match of the run-in for a number of reasons. We have done quite well against the other Irish sides this year and we are keen to finish that off this weekend.

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There are other ramifications as well, when you think of the potential home semi-final that's at stake. Then outside of our game you have the top four sides playing each other this weekend.

So it's vital that we keep momentum and with the Dragons left after this match as well, another difficult game, we need to keep winning in order to have a home semi-final to look forward to.

There was an added pep in the step this week. It's in the air that this is a big game.

When it comes to this time of year the ground is that bit harder. The weather has been good and guys have a lot of hard work behind them through the season.

Players and management are looking forward to the latter end of the competition as well where there is something tangible on offer.

Guys know this one is going to be a fiercely competitive game. That in itself gets guys to switch on and have an increased state of awareness earlier in the week.

You start to see energy levels coming up and training is that little bit sharper, a little bit quicker.

Sights

I know it's a cliché to say one game at a time but it's about making sure you are in the top six first and foremost, then when you get there you turn your sights towards the top four and then the top two positions.

We are guaranteed to be in the top four so the target is top two and it would go a long way towards achieving that this weekend with a win against Ulster, so that's firmly in the sights.

Last time out we had to win that game against Treviso and then pick a bonus point to stay in touch and we are a point ahead of Ulster going into the second last game, which is perfect for us.

It's great to be sitting in second and we want to stay up there so it's clearly in focus now.

Ulster are probably the form side in the Pro12 at the moment. They had a big win against Leinster recently and are very difficult to play against up in Kingspan Stadium so it's a big test.

Their defence is particularly strong and when you look at the stats through the league, they don't concede a huge amount. They've scored a lot of points as well. Their points difference is decent so they are a good all-round side.

Their set-piece is solid. They have been very good defensively, big into their line-speed which puts you under a lot of pressure, and to do that they have to be good at the breakdown, which they are.

They have a lot of quality players all over the pitch as well. They have been very good across the board so it's a well-rounded side and we are going to have to play, and the lads are looking forward to it.

We know Ulster well and they know us well. The players know each other very well so everybody has their slant on what areas you should be attacking in each team.

We have identified a way we want to play the game. We feel we can go up there and get a result.

It is going to be hugely challenging and we need to implement our game-plan with a great degree of accuracy and we hope that we can bring that at the weekend and play the way we want to play.

I am sure Ulster will be doing the same and a lot of that is going to come down to the battle around the breakdown.

It's also going to centre on their kicking game, which is very strong.

They kick an awful lot of ball particularly at home but the upside of that is, it gives us an opportunity to counter-attack a bit more, which has been a good area for us.

So there is a bit of give and take in all aspects of the game tomorrow.

But going into this game we are a point ahead of Ulster and if we win at the weekend then our destiny is in our own hands going into the last weekend against Dragons.

If we lose we drop to third. But Ospreys could beat Glasgow, and go ahead of us as well - then all of a sudden you're depending on results elsewhere in the last round of fixtures so this is a pivotal game for that reason too.

It's a very tough game to have at this stage of the season but if we get a result that keeps things under out own control and not having to go into that last round relying on other results.

Irish Independent

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