Ulster focused on one game at a time says Dan Soper

Ulster face the unique situation of playing a two-legged knockout game where the winner is decided on the aggregate score over both matches.

By Sports Desk
Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 8:00 am

Ulster travel to the defending European Champions Cup holders Toulouse on Saturday before facing the French side a week later at the Kingspan Stadium. Assistant coach Dan Soper however isn’t looking beyond the clash at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.

"We are very much looking at game one and we’re focused on just trying to win game one, that is our only focus,” stated the Kiwi.

“We are not looking at this in terms of a football Champions League type scenario, we are just focused on this game, and we will go to Toulouse to try and win that game and then off the back of that we will start to look at the next one.

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Ulster assistant coach Dan Soper

“We are firmly focused on week one, and haven’t discussed at all it’s a two-leg event, it is just about the first week and going to try and win the game.

"Toulouse have so many world beaters and so many talented guys that can pull something out of nothing and we have seen that first-hand in the last couple of years as we have had the opportunity to play them.

“With a team like that that have so many individuals you try to be strong as a collective and if you can stay strong as a collective and stay on it and switched on for as much of that 80 minutes as you can you give yourself a good chance as you can.

“You think back to the game in Belfast last season two of their tries, Cheslin Kolbe a bit of brilliance where we had switched off just for a moment and (Antoine) Dupont the same a very innocuous moment where he scored out of nothing.

“So it is that ability as a collection of 15 guys to stay switched on all the time and that is the challenge with it, and if you don’t you end up with wonderful individuals that can turn a game on its head very quickly.”

Ulster lost the 2020 quarter-final away to Toulouse and suffered a home defeat against the against the French side in the group stages last year, but Soper believes the Kingspan side are a better all-around team this season.

“We feel we are much further on as a team, even from the start of this year we feel we are making strides and trying to get better,” he said.

“I guess what we have now is the experience of games like the one away to Toulouse, we have had growth as a team, and you are able to see that the way we went to Clermont and win.

“So we will draw on that experience of those occasions and that just adds layers to who we are and are development as a team and that gives us a good chance to go there this weekend and win.”

Ireland winger Robert Baloucoune who missed the two-game trip to South Africa is fit and set to return this weekend.

Utility back Ethan McIlroy had to leave the pitch after only two minutes against the Bulls sustained a concussion and will follow return to play protocols.