Thursday 17 October 2019

'Since John Afoa, they haven't had a really top class front row'- Luke Fitzgerald believes Ulster need a stronger pack

John Afoa, Ulster, is tackled by Roddy Grant, Edinburgh
John Afoa, Ulster, is tackled by Roddy Grant, Edinburgh

John Morley

Luke Fitzgerald believes the Ulster pack has never matched the heights of it's golden era when the likes of John Afoa stood in the front row of their scrummage and gave them an edge in power up front.

Afoa spent four years at the club and asserted himself as a powerful prop in the Ulster men's pack, scoring three tries during his tenure with the club.

Speaking on The Left Wing podcast, Fitzgerald was perplexed as to why Ulster haven't found the same calibre of front row sine the Kiwi's departure to Gloucester in 2014.

"Since John Afoa, they haven't really had a really top class front row, I really believe that. You can argue about the loose head prop, but for tight head, you've got an international hooker there, that was the last time I saw a really a top class [Ulster front row]," said Fitzgerald.

The former Leinster player questioned the solidity of Ulster's pack, considering the fact a lot of their key men have left or have been prone prone to injury like Iain Henderson with hand injuries.

"I just wonder about the front five, I haven't really seen them replace [Johann] Muller, [Iain] Henderson just seems like a guy who is injury prone, he's just had a lot of bad luck."

Fitzgerald commended Dan McFarland's side for being aware of their own deficiencies as they have made moves to bolster their pack with the singing of top Springbok and Kiwi internationals.

"It looks like McFarland has said 'yeah, get in Charles Piutau get in Ruan Pienaar'."

"Look at Saracens, yeah their back line is good, its very good, but really where the quality lies is in the pack. If you look at that Toulon team that was brilliant, they had an incredible pack," added Fitzgerald.

"The Leinster pack for the last ten years has been outstanding, you couldn't name one player on any of those starting teams and say that guy doesn't belong at the level."

The Left Wing presenter Will Slattery defended McFarland's men, highlighting that they have made steps to add fire to their pack but have been stricken with injures.

"I think they are correcting it, I think they've been unlucky with Marty Moran picking up so many injuries, they're bringing in Jack McGrath, Eric O'Sullivan has emerged as a really good loose head prop, Ciaran Treadwell has gotten better as the season has gone on. He's a player that I think people want more form because he has been in and around the Ireland camp...

"The tools are there for them to kick on, its just disappointing for them to concede 50 in a semi-final and it really could've been more," said Slattery.

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