Praise for Darren Devaney’s role within Ulster set-up

Consistency will be key for Ulster as they prepare to welcome Northampton Saints to Kingspan Stadium in the Heineken Champions Cup.

Tuesday, 14th December 2021, 9:00 am

Ulster won their first four games of the season then lost to Connacht but responded with a first win in eight years against Leinster at the RDS.

They failed to back the Dublin win up next time out at Ospreys but quickly put the Swansea disappointment behind them with a victory in Clermont.

Ulster added former Arsenal psychologist Darren Devaney to the Kingspan Stadium staff recently and assistant coach Dan Soper feels that he can help the squad find that consistency to constantly win big games.

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Ulster coach Dan Soper. Pic by Pacemaker.

“Darren been really useful, he’s not been here particularly long but he’s having a real influence on the squad just in the wee things that we do,” said Soper. “Hopefully, he will help with that consistency and it’s one that every coach in every sport out there is striving to find.

“What we’re trying to go after is standards.

“Standards of how we prepare and encouraging the players to have a routine in how they go about preparing themselves so that they’re as well-prepared for Clermont as they are for Saints at home and every week.

“If we do that and we’re continually trying to get better then, hopefully, we will see that consistency that we desperately want.

“We’re also aware that we haven’t quite got that yet.

“The last time we won in Leinster we didn’t back it up the following week, that’s been something we’ve been very aware of.

“The very, very top teams in Europe and in their domestic leagues, they’re the teams who when they get big results can back them up the next week.

“If we want to be a team that sits at the top table, that’s what we need.

“You want to find that lovely balance of getting a win and still wanting to push on.

“We know we are not the finished article by any stretch and we have a lot we are trying to do in terms of improvement.”

Injuries haven’t helped Ulster with consistency of team selection this season and they will already be forced into at least one change from the side that started in Clermont as Robert Baloucoune has been ruled out of the Saints game.

“There’s nothing like the familiarity that you get in combinations of playing week to week,” said Soper. “The nature of the pro rugby and the competitions that we’re in, we can’t churn out the same 15 guys week to week.

“It’s our responsibility as coaches to ensure the whole squad is prepared and we develop the whole squad so that when guys do come in we try and make sure that it’s as seamless as possible, it’s a real challenge but it’s one we have to step up to cause it’s essential in this business.”

Soper is expecting a backlash from the Saints after they lost their first game 45-14 to Racing 92.

“Racing are a hell of a team and when they get hot, I don’t care who you are, you are going to struggle to contain them and I guess that’s what happened,” he said. “Racing got into their stride and once they do they are almost unplayable.

“Northampton have been playing a nice brand of rugby, they are pretty adventurous in how they play.

“They had a bad night but it probably makes them a little more dangerous now coming here on Friday night, doesn’t it?

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