Ulster’s Rob Herring ready for Boxing Day clash with Connacht

After the euphoria of two big European wins against Clermont and Northampton, Ulster return to domestic action on Boxing Day (5.15pm) as Irish rivals Connacht visit Kingspan Stadium.

Friday, 24th December 2021, 8:00 am

Ulster have lost two of their last three games in the United Rugby Championship and sit third in the table ahead of the festive derbies.

Connacht inflicted Ulster’s heaviest defeat of the season, by 36-11, when the sides met at the Aviva Stadium in October.

Andy Friend’s side beat Stade Francais with a bonus point in their first European game and got a losing bonus point at English Premiership leaders Leicester last Sunday.

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Ulster's Rob Herring. Pic by Pacemaker.

Despite the 29-23 defeat in the East Midlands, Ulster hooker Rob Herring feels Ulster will need to be at the top of their game to avoid a repeat of the scoreline from earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really good (Connacht’s performance), Leicester are one of the form teams in Europe at the minute and they are on a winning streak,” said Herring. “I thought Connacht pushed them and they were probably unlucky in the last 25 minutes.

“I was really impressed with what they put up on the weekend.

Connacht had gone 58 years without winning in Belfast before breaking that hoodoo with a 22-15 success in 2018. The western province won on their latest visit to Kingspan Stadium in April.

“During the last four or five years, Connacht have been really good, particularly in the interpros where they seem to raise their game a lot,” said Herring. “We haven’t had a great record against them in the last tree or four years, it is going to be an extremely tough game for us.

“But it is nice to be back at home and we haven’t played them at home on Boxing Day for a good few years now and we’ll be looking forward to it.”

As well as league points at stake, the festive Irish derbies offer a chance to push for Six Nations selection or just put one over on your opposite number and settle old scores. Herring is likely to face Dave Heffernan in the battle of the hookers.

“Dave’s a good player and Connacht have good players throughout their pack as well,” said Herring. “For me it is just about doing my job and delivering what I can do for the team, putting my spoke in the wheel and the whole team can go forward off that.”

After Connacht, Ulster are scheduled to play Leinster and Munster before the return fixtures against Northampton and Clermont.

Herring knows the results in the next five games could go a long way in mapping out the season.

“I’m sure all squads have spoken about it but we even talked about it before the first Connacht game about the block of games we have got coming up and how crucial this part of the season is going to be for us,” he said.

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