Tuesday 25 April 2017

Out of Europe, eight defeats in the last 12 games but Ulster coach Les Kiss is safe in his job

Ulster's Paddy Jackson, left, and Rory Best following their defeat in the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 5 Round 5 match between Exeter Chiefs and Ulster at Sandy Park in Exeter, England. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ulster's Paddy Jackson, left, and Rory Best following their defeat in the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 5 Round 5 match between Exeter Chiefs and Ulster at Sandy Park in Exeter, England. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

Fuming Ulster coach Les Kiss has told his struggling players to shape up or ship out following last night's 31-19 loss to Exeter that effectively ended their European season - because Australian will not be leaving the Kingspan anytime soon.

A run of eight losses in 12 games has Ulster bosses considering a coaching shake-up for next season - but sources have told the Belfast Telegraph that Kiss' job is not under threat due to the support he receives from the IRFU.

Kiss admitted 'frank' words were exchanged in the Sandy Park dressing room after the defeat and he has challenged the players to finally "put their hand up and make a difference".

"We're disappointed in that dressing room," conceded Kiss. "It's not good enough to keep saying we'll learn and do the job next time.

"You've got to have players that are going to put their hand up and make a difference in terms of what they do on a weekly basis.

"The boys have been quite frank with each other about the disappointment."

Former Ireland assistant coach Kiss has already shown during his tenure at the Kingspan that he is not afraid to dump the senior and more established players for rookies - if he believes change is needed.

Yesterday, despite a superb performance from superstar winger Charles Piutau that brought two tries for the former All Black, Ulster let other chances go begging throughout the game and, when even one more try would have brought two bonus points, this European campaign has been one characterised by multiple missed opportunities.

"We work hard but we've got to work harder," Kiss added. "We've got to realise that because we can create chances, it doesn't make us a good or great team.

"We're able to fashion opportunities despite the fact that we're up against it but it doesn't get you a result if you can't convert them.

"We had defensive issues too, they scored pretty easily."

Throughout the weekend, results elsewhere certainly seemed to be going Ulster's way, and even in defeat there is still a hugely unlikely scenario where Ulster can still match the tally of the third best runner-up but in the immediate aftermath Kiss was only concerned with the chance his side had blown.

"That's the last thing on my mind," he said. "If we have a chance next week it's because the competition has fallen that way.

"We showed some good patches tonight but we made 11 breaks to their three which says a lot about us being clinical.

"That's let us down."

Ulster fielded a side with three men making their first European start, and in the case of Dave Shanahan it was his first time in the senior run on side.

The scrum-half equipped himself well, but it was he that came closest to adding a further score that could have made all the difference when he just knocked on underneath the posts chasing a Paddy Jackson kick.

"Dave Shanahan I thought gave a really good debut," added Kiss.

"I thought we were unlucky with the Shanahan knock-on but it probably did come off his arm so we were unlucky with that.

"We started well but we couldn't carry that momentum. I think we got a bit sloppy at the breakdown, two turnovers at critical times.

"We created moments we just didn't have that killer one."

Belfast Telegraph

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