Ulster’s focus back on league push

Ulster’s European dreams were shattered by losing to Toulouse last weekend but now focus switches back to the United Rugby Championship.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 7:00 am

Ulster, who are second in the table 10 points behind Leinster, have three games remaining.

A top-two finish would give Ulster home advantage in the quarter-final and semi-final, but the chasing pack are closing in.

Glasgow are third on points different while Munster and the Stormers are only three points behind Dan McFarland’s side.

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Ulster forwards coach Roddy Grant. Photo Laura Davison/Pacemaker Press

Munster travel to Kingspan Stadium on Friday night after both sides had contrasting fortunes in Europe

Ulster were eliminated while Munster beat Exeter to set up a last-eight tie with Toulouse.

Forwards coach Roddy Grant insists with vital league points at stake, and despite the mental and physical excursions of playing 160 minutes against the European Champions, Ulster will be going full strength.

“It’s important to put out as strong a team as we clearly need to win.

“Ultimately we’re going to come out wanting to win and needing to win, we need to be on our game mentally and physically.

“Whenever you play Munster you expect them to be very physical and team wise I’d imagine they’ll put out as strong a team as they can.

“The league is really tight at the top and we’re expecting a big challenge, but with probably more weight to it with where both teams are in the league.

“Any team we play will always have an upside or motivation I guess that’s the beauty of sport.

“Munster obviously have a good pack and it’s an interpro so always a good motivation.

“Definitely it’s a great motivation for us playing a derby game.”

Grant feels Ulster are well-equipped to bounce back from the Toulouse disappointment and launch a full front assault of the domestic league title.

“We get a feel from the players as to how they’re feeling and like anything coaches like leaders in the team have to lead by example so there is both an individual focus and a collective to get the group going,” he said.

“Any time you have a loss in pro sport it’s a test of your squad’s character to get up and get going.

“We’ve got a big game this weekend and a big three games until the play-offs and we just have to get up for it.

“It’s a test of character but that’s pro sport and you have to deliver and you want to deliver.”

Ulster are likely to be without prop Tom O’Toole for the visit of Munster.

On as a 62nd minute replacement for Marty Moore in the Toulouse second leg last Saturday, O’Toole lasted only three minutes on the pitch before being red carded for making contact with is shoulder to the head of back row Anthony Jelonch. O’Toole is in contravention of Law 9.13 which states a player must not tackle an opponent dangerously.

O’Toole’s hearing will be conducted later today by video conference with the sanction carrying a suspension from two weeks for low end to 10-52 weeks for top end.

Outhalf Billy Burns and lock Kieran Treadwell both suffered concussions last weekend after will follow the return to play protocols.