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McCall laughs off talk of Ireland job as Henry looks to salvage season

THERE was much to admire in Saracens' demolition of Ulster's faint hopes of European redemption before some 37,000 fans in Twickenham, but nobody could have anticipated the lengths to which the northerners went to facilitate that success.

The sight of the delighted Sarries celebrating their victory with their exultant fans only served to heighten frustration at an Ulster performance that was so lacking in imagination and a communal sense of determination that it was dis-spiriting to watch.

This was so out of character for Ulster and for this group of players, which added to the frustrations.

"We couldn't work through the phases in the first half particularly," said a devastated Rory Best.

"Credit to Saracens. We were beaten by a well-drilled team. They are a good outfit and showed that they could step up the level.

"This stage of the competition is a step up and that's where we fell short. We are bitterly disappointed."

That Ulster were made to look so ordinary by a team who are more pragmatic than flash is a credit to Sarries coach Mark McCall, who must surely be one of the growing number of contenders for the vacant Ireland job.

The list of possible candidates to succeed Declan Kidney is as long and as contrasting as a trans-continental train ride.

Were Saracens to actually win the Heineken Cup then surely the odds on McCall would shorten considerably and the calls for him could become too loud to ignore.

"It's hard to talk about something you haven't been offered," McCall laughed off when the question of his interest was posed. "I've got a good job with Saracens and expect to be here for a number of years yet."

That he was less than emphatic in his dismissal of the suggestion spoke volumes and it is a sound-bite those in IRFU HQ will surely take notice of.

With all four provinces currently coached by Kiwis, the attraction of having an Irishman at the helm could prove irresistible.

Of more immediate concern for Ulster was the chastening experience of Twickenham when, as coach Mark Anscombe acknowledged, they were beaten by a better team.

"Hats off to Saracens, they are a very good team. That's the important thing. They were too good for us today," said Anscombe.

Strengths

"They stuck to their game plan and played to their strengths and they thoroughly deserved their victory."

Ulster will now seek to salvage something from their season with the play-offs of the Pro12 beckoning when they will hope to use a probable home advantage to their benefit.

"Rory and Johann (Muller) have already mentioned in the dressing-room that we have to put this to bed quickly," said Chris Henry.

"It is difficult to take right now but we are still out in front in the Rabo and fortunately we can knuckle down and finish the season strongly."

It was a thought his coach echoed when he outlined his and the team's remaining ambitions for the season.

"We didn't become a bad team today. We'll take it on the chin. I can assure you we are going to give the Pro12 everything we have."

Irish Independent