Alan O’Connor hopes Ulster learn from previous encounter

Last time Ulster visited Toulouse South African World Cup winning winger Cheslin Kolbe side-stepped Jacob Stockdale within the first three minutes to score the opening try writes Ciaran Donaghy.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Friday, 8th April 2022, 7:00 am

That was in the 2020 European Champions Cup quarter-final, and Kolbe would repeat the trick on the stoke of half time while, Antoine Duport, Thomas Ramos and Pita Ahki also added tries as Toulouse prevailed 36-8. Ulster visit the defending European Champions Cup holders tomorrow afternoon in a two-legged last-16 clash.

Lock Alan O’Connor knows they can’t have a repeat of the start they had at Stade Ernest-Wallon the last time they were there.

“Toulouse will be coming out full of emotion, we’ll just have to make sure we’re playing to the right areas and play to our strengths and neutralise theirs and go from there,” stated O’Connor

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Alan O'Connor of Ulster. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“Not much changes for us, we’ve done it before this year and we’ll have to impose our will on Toulouse. We did well in that first 20 minutes and we knew the Bulls would come out full of emotion.”

Toulouse won the competition last year beating La Rochelle 22-17 in the final but things haven’t gone as well this season for Ugo Mola’s side. They scraped into the last-16 winning one of their four pool games finishing seventh in their group.

Toulouse have also lost 10 times in the Top14 including six of their last nine games and currently sit fifth in the table.

Despite their differing fortunes in this season’s competition O’Connor isn’t writing off the European Champions.

“They won the competition last year,” he said.

“They have the guts of a similar bunch there and a few players in the French squad which they were missing throughout that whole period where they have struggled in the league.

“I think they’ll be a different team than the one that maybe played in the last four or five games.”

The game could be decided at the battle of the breakdown.

Toulouse have conceded the most turnovers in the tournament with 20 while Ulster have conceded just nine the joint fewest among all the teams remaining in the competition.

“I think we’ve got a lot of breakdown threats as well so if there’s any isolation we’ll be hoping to capitalise on that,” said O’Connor.

“You know what Toulouse are like, they’ve got really good runners with the ball and they can break you from the first one to three phases obviously with their superstars, but maybe they can get a bit disjointed and loose and that’s where teams capitalise.”

Ulster have already won in France this season beating Clermont in the pool stages and O’Connor feels the squad can take inspiration from that.

“Most French teams pose similar threats in the sense that like they have really good backs and forwards and a massive pack if they get their maul going and scrum right,” he said.

“We’ll be looking to neutralise a lot of what they have.

“We’ll go over as a collective and use our collective as our strength to take away from their individuals, and we all know who they have so we’ll be looking forward to trying to shut things down.”