Ulster aim to make amends

Winning the battle of the breakdown in modern rugby goes a long way to deciding which team is victorious in the game at the final whistle.

Friday, 14th January 2022, 7:00 am

And that was something Ulster found out to their cost in the 18-13 defeat at Thomond Park against Munster last Saturday night.

Despite playing against 14 men for over three quarters of the game Ulster failed to dominate at the breakdown with Munster and Ireland flanker Tadgh Beirne causing havoc.

Even with their numerical disadvantage Munster won 15 turnovers in the match compared to Ulster’s nine.

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BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: Ulster hooker Rob Herring (r) is congratulated by team mates after scoring the first try during the Heineken Champions Cup match between Ulster Rugby and Northampton Saints at Kingspan Stadium on December 17, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

As Dan McFarland’s side prepare to travel to Franklin Gardens to face Northampton in the Heineken Champions Cup on Sunday, flanker Greg Jones knows if Ulster are sloppy again at the breakdown it will be a long afternoon in the East Midlands.

“Certainly breakdown will be a big focus this week, they have guys like Lewis Ludlam - Teimana Harrison if he plays is another good guy at the breakdown,” said Jones.

“Obviously what happened at the weekend was disappointing. Tadgh Beirne got a few jackals, it is small things like when we are attacking as forwards how we tighten up our support ruckers and reduce that lag time where they get opportunities.

“I think all of us are going to be extremely focused on that this week and we are hoping to rectify that whole breakdown.

“As well as jackal turnovers there is the element of focusing on the breakdown to generate quick ball because we want to attack better. We were disappointed of how we attacked against Munster.”

Jones is hoping Ulster have identified the problem and can rectify it against the Saints.

“We have looked at a few bits around the breakdown, even with our carries and placement.

“So I think there are definitely a good few things that we can implement this week to improve that speed of ball and to take those guys out of the game that are trying to jackal.

“I think a lot of it is the lag time between the carriers and the ruckers. I think if we can shorten that up it will certainly go a long way to helping us because if someone like Tadgh Beirne gets into a position like that he is very hard to move, so it is something that we are going to be focusing on - all the threats they have.”

Jones turned 26 yesterday and with competition for places in the Ulster backrow at a premium he knows he has to perform in every aspect of the game when he is in the matchday squad.

“It a combination of everything - the way the back row is at the moment you have to be proficient in every area.

“The way I play there is a bit more of a lineout element. I like defending in lineouts and that is a big part of my game whereas Nick (Timoney), he’ll generally be out in the backline defending.

“In terms of evaluating a performance it pretty much encompasses every part of the game - tackles, carries even stuff like passing as forwards - because backrows are meant to be slightly more skilled as forwards.”