Sunday 25 February 2018

Ulster hungry to double Toulouse trouble

Allen Clarke, Ulster assistant. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/SPORTSFILE
Allen Clarke, Ulster assistant. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/SPORTSFILE
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ulster's appetite for European destruction shows little sign of abating as they prepare for the return leg of their Champions Cup back-to-back ties against Toulouse this weekend.

Not sated by last Friday's thunderous 38-0 shut-out of the multiple champions, the northern province may yet represent the best Irish hope of a last-eight qualifier should they manage to complete a stunning double.

Their chances may have marginally increased - even if the market has Toulouse at seven-point favourites - with news that their coach Uga Mola must plan without his two back-rowers, Gillian Galan and the enormously influential Louis Picamoles.

"Amongst the player pool the appetite for success is as healthy as I've seen it, and on Sunday I hope we can show it," declares Ulster assistant coach Allen Clarke.

"To be honest, it hasn't been difficult to keep a lid on the excitement we all shared last weekend, because we recognised that there were still many things we need to do better.

"What we have seen as a coaching group is the integration of the work in the scrum, for instance, with the needs of the backline.

"On Friday, we defended really well, and we took our scoring chances, and that was a win for the collective, not just one unit, one part of the side."

Despite all the coaching upheaval, the players have retained a level of responsibility that continues to serve them well, even if they remain frustratingly unable to translate promise into silverware.

"Rugby is really a simple game, and it's the job of the coaches to empower the players to perform at their best.

"We trust the players, and I think there was an example of just that last Friday. We spurned a penalty, Rory Best went for the kick to the corner, and from that Nick Williams powered over.

"That said a lot about the decision-making and the leadership qualities in the team, and about Rory as a leader. For us, for the supporters, it was nice to see a plan executed so well."

Ulster are likely to bring an unchanged squad to France.

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