Preparation work will be key for Ulster in European clash

Ulster assistant coach Dan Soper believes the key to victory in Clermont tomorrow evening will be the work done off the field in preparing to face the three-time European Cup runners up.

Friday, 10th December 2021, 8:00 am

Ulster have been drawn with the French side and Northampton Saints in Pool A of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup.

The top eight in the 12-team pool will qualify for a home and away tie in the round of 16, while the sides that finish ninth, 10th and 11th will go into the European Challenge Cup.

Ulster only played two pool matches last season before the groups were postponed due to Covid-19.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Ulster Assistant Coach Dan Soper. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Dan McFarland’s side lost at home to Toulouse and were defeated in Gloucester, however the Kingspan Stadium side went into the European Challenge Cup and reached the semi-final before being eliminated by Leicester Tigers.

“I think when the fixtures came out and you saw that they were the two teams that we had been drawn against, and they are two powerhouses of European rugby over the years, and two teams that we have relatively recent history with as well, and have had some epic games with,” said Soper.

“It really whets the appetite.

“It’s something to get quite excited about, getting into those fixtures, for sure.

“The analysts that we have, they will draw a lot of footage and try to condense it for us coaches

“They’ll try to show us themes or things that they are seeing that are reoccurring.

“For us coaches, we might go back over the last sort of three games, maybe a bit deeper for some detail, that sort of thing.

“But yeah, it’s a huge part of the game now.

“You do try to keep the focus on yourself a huge amount, but there’s no doubt.

“You look at so many of these European games [and they] are tight.

“They are won and lost in one moment, and if that moment is something that you’ve prepped [for] because you’ve seen something and it comes off, well, it can be the difference between winning and losing.

“So, yeah, it’s a big part of our preparation, we’re lucky we’ve got good analysts that prep us well and highlight things to us that we should be aware of, and then, as I say, we’ll go back maybe three games.

“Maybe we’ll look for significant games if they’ve got games against teams that are similar to ourselves or games where they’ve had particular results that have gone one way and maybe look at how the result went that way and try to pick out things from it.

“Also you can’t forget that you can only coach your own team and you’re not sure one team could do one thing consistently for six weeks in a row, but on week seven they might turn up and throw the play book out and start again.

“So, looking after your own house, getting your own house in order is often the best philosophy.

“I guess it’s trying to give the players confidence.

“You need a certain framework, you need a certain structure around what you’re doing.

“But you want to have as many players feel like they are in a position that they can attack and they can have a real influence on the game.”