Ulster’s focus is on winning games says Alan O’Connor

Ulster have secured dramatic victories on their last two visits to Edinburgh thanks to last kick of the game penalties from Ian Madigan.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Friday, 29th April 2022, 7:01 am

One was to send Dan McFarland’s side into the Pro14 final, and the other was to end last season on a winning note in the Rainbow Cup.

Ulster visit the Scottish capital tomorrow night needing another win to keep hopes of a home quarter-final in the United Rugby Championship alive and also the prospects of playing in next season’s European Champions Cup.

Under the URC format eight clubs qualify for next season’s Champions Cup, the four shield winners which come from Ireland, South Africa, Wales plus Scotland/Italy mini pools and the next four highest ranked sides in the league table.

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Ulster lock Alan O’Connor. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

However, Wales have no team in the top eight and are guaranteed a place in the Champions Cup meaning Ulster, currently sitting fifth in the table, must finish in the top seven or face Challenge Cup rugby.

Lock Alan O’Connor isn’t worried about the permutations though he just wants to go to Edinburgh and return to winning ways.

“We’ve got a really good opportunity going away to Edinburgh who are playing some really good rugby at the minute in fairness to them,” said O’Connor.

“Going to Edinburgh in the past, we’ve gone over off the back of a couple of losses, or going there needing to win and we’ve delivered the goods.

“We’re looking forward to the weekend, getting back on the horse.

“Edinburgh have a lot of internationals, a high standard of player and they’re playing a lot differently to how they have in previous years under Richard Cockerill.

“They’re way more expansive now and that’s a big challenge.

“But it’s good to get back over there, and we have the knowledge that we’re capable of going there and doing the business, which helps us, helps a few of the younger guys as well.”

The fight for the play-off and European places is going to the wire with only four points separating second and eighth.

“We were sitting second for a while, we’d gone first once or twice, but it’s a new competition,” said O’Connor.

“The South African teams are coming in hot and Glasgow are playing great rugby.”

“We knew it was going to be tight at the top, unfortunately the results haven’t gone our way.

“We’re ready for it, coming into the business end, and we’re looking forward to Edinburgh on Saturday and Sharks obviously after that at home to ensure we get to the play-offs.

“It’s out of our hands now whether that’s at home or away but we’re going for ten points.”

O’Connor will be trying to outwit his former Ulster teammate Adam McBurney, the hooker left Kingspan Stadium at the end of last season to join Edinburgh.

“You wouldn’t think about (the line-out) too much because then you might not be as sharp in other things but McBurney is a great lad,” he said.

“I’ve a lot of respect for him and fair play to him for going over and making the move.

“I’m looking forward to it, getting stuck into him and he’ll be looking to get stuck into a few of the lads, because we’ve had many battles on the training pitch with him in the past.

“It’s exciting for him to be over there and getting good opportunities and really testing himself, that’s great,” he added.