Sunday 18 August 2019

Andy Friend and Connacht expecting backlash from 'filthy' Ulster


Connacht head coach Andy Friend. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Connacht head coach Andy Friend. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Connacht coach Andy Friend has warned his team to expect an Ulster response when the two teams put their seasons on the line in Saturday's Guinness PRO14 quarter-final at Kingspan Stadium.

The western province completed a historic double of wins over their neighbours to the north in the regular season and are bidding to make it three out of three in the winner-takes-all fixture.

Rory Best looks set to return to the Ulster starting XV, but Jacob Stockdale is out of the game while Connacht will make do without Ireland second-row Quinn Roux.

The winner takes on Glasgow Warriors away in the semi-final and Friend says his side must be ready for a backlash from their hosts.

"They'll be filthy, they should be," he said.

"We're at their home again. The reference was made there that we're the only team to beat them this year, that gives them another reason to say, 'You're not going to do it again.'

"So all the pressure is on us to go up there and try to repeat that. Fine, we're happy with that. We're focusing more on ourselves, as we've done all of this year. We know that they're a different team to what we faced last time we played them here, a very different team to what we faced last time up there.

"You watch their quarter-final against Leinster in the Champions Cup, they were really good.

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"You know that they can rise to that level. Good on them but we know we're pretty comfortable and confident with what we're doing as well. It will be a great battle."

Ulster coach Dan McFarland admitted that losing at home to Connacht for the first time in 58 years had stung Ulster.

"It was painful when we lost here too, but let's not get away from it - we don't have a right to win," he said.

"They're a team that's beaten us twice this year fair and square. We haven't been able to do the job and it's a difficult task to beat them, as difficult a task as we've had all year.

"They're in rude health and playing well. They are confident, you can hear from they say in the press that they're confident of coming here and beating us so it's going to be a tough one."

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