Friday 22 June 2018

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Gibbes says Ulster must 'front up' in push for play-off

Ulster Head Coach Jono Gibbes. Photo: Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile
Ulster Head Coach Jono Gibbes. Photo: Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes has warned his side that their win over Edinburgh last time out will count for little if they don't back it up against Ospreys in Kingpsan Stadium on Friday night.

The province haven't won back-to-back games since December and need all the points they can get to boost their slim Guinness PRO14 play-off hopes.

"To keep giving ourselves an opportunity to get through to the last round-robin and have something to play for, it's important we have to back it up," Gibbes said.

"The door is not completely shut but you have to keep putting pressure on Edinburgh as best we can and that starts with fronting up against Ospreys."

They will have to do it without tighthead prop Wiehahn Herbst, who seems certain to be ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, and Rob Lyttle (hamstring issue).

Few visiting coaches will ever have been more familiar with the surrounds than Ospreys' Allen Clarke will be on Friday.

"I asked the question, 'who worked with Allen Clarke as a player coming through the system?' and Rory Best stuck his hand up so there's a guy who has had some longevity in this organisation," joked Gibbes yesterday.

"He knows the players, especially the forwards, so they will have a hell of a lot of intel. It's up to our guys to make sure they rise up to the challenge."

Clarke's promotion from forwards coach to interim head coach coincided with an upturn in fortunes for the Swansea outfit, who have won their last four matches, with victories over both Leinster and Connacht included.

Having revitalised Ospreys' hopes of qualifying for Europe's top tier next season - at present they would face another trip to Ulster for a one-game play-off - Clarke has brought consistency to the Liberty Stadium outfit, according to Gibbes.

Consistency has been absent for Ulster for much of this season and, after their somewhat surprising win over Edinburgh last weekend, Friday night will see Ulster looking to claim back-to-back wins for a first time since seeing off Harlequins in a December double-header.

Gibbes, who had a chance to join Ospreys in the latter part of his playing career, knows that finally claiming an away victory last time out will mean little if it's not repeated back in Belfast.

While play-off hopes remain slim with Edinburgh eight points ahead, Benetton cannot be counted out of fighting back to pip Ulster into fourth place and the Champions Cup play-off.

Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast in association with Laya Healthcare, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

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