Saturday 18 January 2020

O'Connor says young guns can serve it up to Leinster

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Ulster head coach Dan McFarland. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

Dubliner Alan O'Connor has warned against writing off Ulster's youngsters against Leinster in the RDS this evening.

After an intense period of games, the province's head coach, Dan McFarland, has made 14 changes to the side that beat Harlequins last weekend for the trip to face the PRO14 champions and could hand four prospects their senior debuts from the bench.

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At a ground where Ulster have won only once since the turn of the century - and where they were beaten 40-7 a year ago with a similarly callow panel - they'll be up against it, but O'Connor isn't throwing the towel in just yet.

"With all the young guys who played last year, they are a year older, a year more experienced," he said. "Last year, a lot of players got bled in and I think if we are going down with a similar group of fellas, we are in with a good shot this time.

"I think we definitely have a good shot when we get the core things right and we can bring the extra stuff in after that."

The lock is looking forward to leading out the visitors on what is his 100th appearance for Ulster.

"I was very thankful," he remembers now of a debut that came only months after Allen Clarke had brought the Skerries native north having been impressed by his performances at the U-20 World Cup.

"There were a couple of injuries, Dan Tuohy and guys like that, Johann Muller wasn't playing, and I was in my first year with the Academy.

"Luckily enough I had played in a couple of 'A' games and did okay and Mark Anscombe gave me a shot. We had a great win. It was a good day.

"No way (would I have thought then I'd get to 100) but I am here now. I am just really enjoying it at the moment, enjoying the rugby and the buzz around the place."

Irish Independent

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