Ulster relishing top-of-the-table clash with Leinster

Ulster will be looking to complete a rare league double over Leinster when the top two in the United Rugby Championship clash at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 10:00 am

The last time Ulster achieved back-to-back league wins over Leinster was in the 2012/13 season.

Ulster won the first meeting between the teams by 20-10 at the RDS in November when James Hume’s late try sealed the win for the northern province.

Hume’s celebration in the RDS was seen as a bit controversial.

Ulster's Dan Soper. Pic by Pacemaker.

But Ulster assistant coach Dan Soper, who coached the Ireland centre to three Schools’ Cup successes at RBAI, doesn’t think Leinster will be using Hume’s bravado as a motivating factor when they arrive in Belfast looking to preserve their four-point cushion at the top.

“I think that is just the enthusiasm of a young man, it was a big game and I suppose that was the moment that James and the rest of the guys actually realised that we were going to win that game and it had been a long time since we’d done it,” said Soper. “It’s not something we encourage or practice, it is just part of the emotion and that is how much the guys have invested in the game.

“They put a huge amount into it and sometimes a bit of emotion comes out like that.

“It is what it is and I’m sure Leinster have many ways to motivate themselves and I don’t know if looking at that type of thing is what they would actually use.”

With the game scheduled to kick off a short time after England against Ireland finishes, Soper admits it’s hard to prep for the game as both teams don’t know if they will get any of Andy Farrell’s squad not going to Twickenham released.

“It is a wee bit of a challenge but the guys that have come back to us the last number of weeks have been exceptional,” he said. “The performances have been exceptional but that is off the back of what they have done in the short time that they have had with us and when they have turned up at training they have made sure they have had their prep and detail sorted and they are able to perform to the level that they have.

“Both teams are going to be in a similar boat with not being sure who is going to be released, we are confident if we do get guys they will be able to seamlessly slot back in, as we have seen over the last few weeks.

“It’s a challenge but the one thing over the last two years has taught us is you have to be adaptable, roll with those punches and you just find a way to make those things work and there will be no excuses around any of that this week.

“We are pretty used to these rugby being played at Christmas or when guys are on a bit of a break, so we’re used to it maybe with neither team being at full strength.

“I don’t think it takes away from it...it’s first and second in the league and there’s a lot to play for, we certainly will be putting out a strong side.”

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