Ulster searching for more consistency after Munster setback

Consistency seems to be a concern still plaguing Ulster.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 4:02 pm

This season there have been triumphs on the road at Leinster and Clermont but also defeats away to Connacht and the Ospreys.

After both festive interpros at home were cancelled, Ulster travelled to Munster last Saturday on the back of two wins in Europe.

And and while they would not have been favourites at kick off in Limerick, after 14 minutes the odds would have changed as Dan McFarland’s side led 7-0 and the hosts were reduced to 14 men for the remainder of the game following Simon Zebo’s red card.

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BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JANUARY 18: Robert Baloucoune of Ulster scores a try during the Heineken Champions Cup Round 6 match between Ulster Rugby and Bath Rugby at Ravenhill Stadium on January 18, 2020 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

However, Munster won 18-13 and Ulster backs coach Dan Soper feels that consistency is still an issue for the squad.

“That’s what every pro team, sportsman and sportswoman is striving for, to be at their best form every time,” he said.

“I don’t disagree that we haven’t found that recipe yet but we’re striving for it and we’re working pretty hard towards it.

“It’s part of the journey of learning. If there was a magic formula then everyone would have it. We have certain standards that we try to get to every week, in terms of how we train and prepare. As the coaches, that’s what we drive,” Soper added.

“Consistency in the standards at training, consistency in the detail we use to prepare the game - if we drive those standards of consistency in preparation during the week then hopefully that filters through into the weekend, but we haven’t quite found that formula yet.”

Ulster focus shifts to Europe this week and a trip to Northampton Saints on Sunday.

After the disappointment of dropping into the Challenge Cup last season Ulster have nine points from their opening two games and are second in Pool A, putting themselves in a strong position to be one of the top seeds in the draw for the last 16.

Saints have one point from their two games but found their form last weekend with a 44-8 win over Newcastle in the Premiership and Soper is expecting a difficult game at a hostile Franklin Gardens.

“It’s going to be quite a challenge, any European games away from home are a real challenge,” he said.

“You watch Northampton, how they play, and they’re really nice to watch - Dan Biggar is one of best the players in the Premiership and he offers a real challenge to how we’re going to play the game.

“We’re under no illusions. Just because we beat them here a few weeks ago there is no golden ticket that means it’s going to happen again.

“It probably makes our job harder. It’s important we prepare well and turn up knowing that this is going to be a real challenge for us.

“They’re one of the really exciting teams to watch in the Premiership.

“The game here a few weeks ago was a good game with both teams having a crack at each other, I’d expect to see something similar.

“Certainly we have the intent to go out there and be positive. I know that’s very much part of their philosophy so I’m expecting a good game of rugby.”

There was mixed news on the injury front ahead of the trip to the East Midlands.

Ireland winger Robert Baloucoune has returned to training and will be assessed during the week to see if he makes the plane, but John Cooney and James Hume - who both suffered early exits at Thomond Park - are extremely doubtful.


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